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Moldy food in your fridge?!

Home food leftovers and Safety

Wash your hands thoroughly before food handling.

Stay strong!

Food preparation and management of food leftovers is an important part of keeping a healthy nutrition. Preparing food in advance will guarantee a healthy week ahead. It is very important to refrigerate perishable food and leftovers within 2 hours (within 1 hour if it’s hotter than 30°C outside) to prevent bacteria overgrowth. Food safety must be prioritized. Twenty percent of foodborne illnesses[1] happen at home[2]!

Batch cooking for the family or cooking a recipe just for you, will require careful storage for the week and freezing the rest for the future. Freeze in small portions if you are planning to defrost just for yourself.

Food storage at cold temperatures depends on the space you have in your fridge and/or freezer. If you have a large fridge then you could invest in good glass boxes to keep food fresh. Glass does not absorb odours as plastic does. Otherwise, food storage bags for fridge and freezer provide a flatter storage and uses more efficiently the space in your fridge and freezer.

Wrap Leftovers Well and date them[3] It is important to label food leftovers with small stickers, as one tends to forget which date a recipe was cooked!

Cover cooled leftovers, wrap them in airtight packaging, or seal them in storage containers. These practices help keep bacteria out, retain moisture, and prevent leftovers from picking up odours from other food in the refrigerator. Immediately refrigerate or freeze the wrapped leftovers for rapid cooling. It’s best to reuse leftovers that have a pH above 4.6 and high moisture within 3-4 days if refrigerated. If in doubt, or if the food will not be reused within 4 days then freeze the food, which stops the growth of microorganisms.

Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or frozen for 3-4 months. Although safe indefinitely, frozen leftovers can lose moisture and flavour when stored for longer times in the freezer. Six to four months is a good guidance.

Thaw Frozen Leftovers Safely Safe ways to thaw leftovers include the refrigerator, cold water and the microwave oven. Refrigerator thawing takes the longest but the leftovers stay safe the entire time. After thawing, the food should be used within 3 to 4 days or can be refrozen. Cold water thawing is faster than refrigerator thawing but requires more attention. The frozen leftovers must be in a leak-proof package or plastic bag. If the bag leaks, water can get into the food and bacteria from the air or surrounding environment could enter it. Foods thawed by the cold water method should be cooked before refreezing. Microwave thawing is the fastest method. When thawing leftovers in a microwave, continue to heat it until it reaches 73°C as measured with a food thermometer. Foods thawed in the microwave can be refrozen after heating it to this safe temperature. Reheating Leftovers without Thawing It is safe to reheat frozen leftovers without thawing, either in a saucepan or microwave (in the case of a soup or stew) or in the oven or microwave (for example, casseroles and combination meals). Reheating will take longer than if the food is thawed first, but it is safe to do when time is short. Reheat Leftovers Safely When reheating leftovers, be sure they reach 73°C as measured with a food thermometer. Reheat sauces, soups and gravies by bringing them to a rolling boil. Cover leftovers to reheat. This retains moisture and ensures that food will heat all the way through. When reheating in the microwave, cover and rotate the food for even heating. Arrange food items evenly in a covered microwave safe glass or ceramic dish, and add some liquid if needed. Be sure the covering is microwave safe, and vent the lid or wrap to let the steam escape. The moist heat that is created will help destroy harmful bacteria and will ensure uniform cooking. Also, because microwaves have cold spots, check the temperature of the food in several places with a food thermometer and allow a resting time before checking the internal temperature of the food with a food thermometer. Cooking continues for a longer time in dense foods such as a whole turkey or beef roast than in less dense foods like breads, small vegetables and fruits. Refreezing Previously Frozen Leftovers Sometimes there are leftover "leftovers." It is safe to refreeze any food remaining after reheating previously frozen leftovers to the safe temperature of 73°C as measured with a food thermometer. If a large container of leftovers was frozen and only a portion of it is needed, it is safe to thaw the leftovers in the refrigerator, remove the needed portion and refreeze the remainder of the thawed leftovers without reheating it.

[1] NSF household germ study. See more at [2] [3]


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