The More the Merrier: Lots of People, Lots of Leftovers
When preparing for your special event, remember that there may be an invisible enemy ready to strike. It’s called BAC (foodborne bacteria), and it can make you sick. Lots of people and little time can create opportunities for mishandling and contamination. After the big party, remember to safely handle leftovers to prevent foodborne illness.
- Make sure you have the right equipment, including cutting boards, utensils, food thermometers, cookware, shallow containers for storage, soap, and paper towels.
- Plan on enough storage space in the refrigerator and freezer. In the refrigerator, air needs to circulate to keep the temperature at 40 °F or below. Use an appliance thermometer in your refrigerator to monitor the temperature.
When You Shop
- Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from fruit, vegetables, other foods and cleaning supplies in your grocery shopping cart, grocery bags and in your refrigerator.
- Check that fresh cut fruits and vegetables like packaged salads and precut melons are refrigerated at the store before buying. Do not buy fresh cut items that are not refrigerated.
- Buy cold foods last. Plan to drive directly home from the grocery store. You may want to take a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs for perishables. Always refrigerate perishable food within two hours. Refrigerate within one hour when the temperature is above 90 °F.
- Avoid canned goods that are dented, leaking, bulging or rusted. These are the warning signs that dangerous bacteria may be growing in the can.
Working in the Kitchen
- Make sure that anyone who helps in the kitchen knows the basic food safety rules—clean, separate, cook and chill.
- Encourage everyone to wash his or her hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food.
- Sponges and kitchen towels can easily soak up bacteria and cross-contaminate kitchen surfaces and hands. When a crowd is over and food preparation gets hectic, it can be safer to use paper towels.
- Try to keep the refrigerator door closed as much as possible to keep it safely at 40 °F or below.
- Throw away all perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs and casseroles, left at room temperature longer than two hours; one hour in air temperatures above 90 °F. This also includes leftovers taken home from a restaurant. Some exceptions to this rule are foods such as cookies, crackers, bread and whole fruits.
- Whole roasts, hams and turkeys should be sliced or cut into smaller pieces or portions before storing them in the refrigerator or freezer.
- Refrigerate or freeze leftovers in shallow containers. Wrap or cover the food. Leftovers stored in the refrigerator should be consumed within 3-4 days, and leftovers should be heated to 165°F prior to consumption.
- Foods stored longer may become unsafe to eat and cause foodborne illness. Do not taste leftovers that appear to be safe, bacteria that cause illness does not affect the taste, smell, or appearance of food.
- Frozen storage times are much longer, but some items such as salads made with mayonnaise do not freeze well. Foods kept frozen longer than recommended storage times are safe to eat, but may be drier and not taste as good.
- WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT!