Food for Thought: Don't forget to store, reheat leftovers properly

By Loretto J. Hulse, Herald staffSeptember 19, 2012 

Portions served in restaurants can sometimes go well beyond generous.

Instead of overeating, save yourself some money and some calories, and take home the leftovers. Just be sure to treat them right or they will do you wrong.

In a news release from the Home Food Safety program, Melissa Joy Dobbins cautions people to be sure to store and reheat leftovers properly because it can make you sick.

Dobbins is a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the academy.

"Unfortunately, you can't rely on sight and scent alone to tell if food is spoiled or contaminated with foodborne pathogens," Dobbins said. "That's why it's important to follow these simple steps, but a majority of Americans do not always do so, putting them at risk for food poisoning."

Here are some food safety tips in mind when reheating leftovers:

-- Refrigerate leftovers to 40 degrees or below within two hours of them being served to you. (In hotter weather, more than 90 degrees, get the food into the fridge within an hour.)

-- Seal leftovers in an airtight, clean container, and label it with the date. Try and use them in a day or two.

-- Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees, and use a food thermometer to make sure all the food reaches the safe minimum internal temperature before you eat.

-- If you forgot to date the container and can't remember exactly when you put the food in the fridge, don't eat it. Remember the food safety rule: When in doubt, throw it out.

A 2011 survey conducted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shows 23 percent of Americans always use a food thermometer to check the doneness of their foods, and only 28 percent regularly check the refrigerator thermometer. Unfortunately, many don't own either thermometer.

"It's important to properly store and reheat leftovers, whether at home or the office," she said. "Encourage your work place to regularly clean the office refrigerator and ensure it remains under 40 degrees."

You'll find more tips about reducing the chance of food poisoning at While there, run through the eye-opening interactive quiz: "What Was It?" While you're there, download the new Leftover Safety tip sheet, and determine the shelf life of leftovers and more with the free app "Is My Food Safe?" on iPhone and Android.

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* Loretto J. Hulse:

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