People usually blame restaurant food or the flu when they get hit with a bout of vomiting and diarrhea. In reality, food from home may be to blame. By knowing the numbers, you can reduce the risk of food-borne illness.
9 out of 10 – the number of people who often eat leftovers. Safe handling is key to reducing food-borne illness.
97 percent – the number of people who don’t use a food thermometer to ensure they get the food hot enough to prevent food-borne illness. Next time you reheat, use a food thermometer to ensure food reaches the proper internal temperature.
165 degrees – the temperature for reheating that makes food safe to eat. If using the microwave, stir the food halfway through even if your microwave has a turntable to prevent cold pockets where bacteria survives.
2 hours – the maximum time before leftovers must be refrigerated. Throw away all perishable foods that have been left in room temperature for more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature is over 90° F, such as at an outdoor picnic during summer).
40 degrees or below – the proper temperature to keep your refrigerator. Use a refrigerator thermometer to make sure your fridge is always cold enough.
3 to 4 days – the amount of time leftovers can be kept safely in the refrigerator. Keep leftovers in airtight packaging or storage containers. This helps keep bacteria out. When possible, immediately refrigerate or freeze the wrapped leftovers for rapid cooling. Hot food can be placed directly in the refrigerator or be chilled in ice or cold water bath before refrigerating.
3 to 4 months – the length of time leftovers can be kept in the freezer. Although safe indefinitely, frozen leftovers can lose moisture and flavor when frozen too long.
Not cooking food to a safe temperature and leaving food out at an unsafe temperature are the two main causes of food-borne illness. For more details, visit the USDA’s web site at https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets or the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at http://www.eatright.org/resource/homefoodsafety/four-steps/cook/tips-for-reheating-leftovers.
Collins is a registered dietitian at Sutter Gould Medical Foundation.