Re-using & eating leftover food is something most families do, and it serves an important function in cutting back on food waste. Here are some guidelines that will help ensure leftovers don’t make you sick:

How long can leftovers be kept out?
It’s recommended that leftovers be chilled within about two hours, and vegetarian dishes aren’t exempted from this rule.

How long do leftovers keep?
The general guideline is that refrigerated leftovers should be eaten within a few days. The refrigerator doesn’t kill germs, it only slows the growth of bacteria. It’s best to toss deli meats after two to three days, and the safe storage time on turkey kept in the fridge is around 4 days.

A lot also depends on what the leftovers consist of and how you plan to prepare them for eating again. When it comes to leftovers you plan to eat straight from the fridge (deli meats for a sandwich, macaroni salad, etc.), it’s best to try and adhere as close to the guidelines as possible. If it’s something you’re going to be thoroughly cooking again when you reheat it to eat (attaining a thorough 160 degree temperature throughout that will kill bacteria), then you can extend these guidelines quite a bit and play it more by your nose. Spoiled food may give you the runs, but so long as it’s re-cooked thoroughly it shouldn’t pose a safety hazard.

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