Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Myth: Leftovers are safe to eat until they smell bad.

Answer: BUSTED!

You can’t determine if a food is safe by its smell. Some spoiled food may be obvious. If your leftovers smell bad or look moldy or slimy, just throw them out. Never taste old leftovers to see if they are safe. Other spoilage may not be so obvious because some bacteria that can cause foodborne illness doesn’t affect the smell, taste or appearance of food.

Three food containers with leftoversHere are some tips for handling leftovers:
  • It is important to freeze or toss refrigerated leftovers within 3 to 4 days.
  • Label your leftovers with a date so you know how long you’ve had them.
  • Reheat foods only once and toss if there are any remaining leftovers.
  • If you don't anticipate using the leftovers in the recommended time span, freeze them to extend the shelf life. Freeze in portion sizes that are easily eaten in one setting.
  • Always thaw frozen leftovers in the refrigerator, not out on the counter.

Not sure how long that item has been sitting in the back of the refrigerator? Don’t take the risk — when in doubt, throw it out!

Visit to find more information on food safety.

Contributor: Karen Sherbondy, MEd, RD, LD, Extension Associate, Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, University of Missouri Extension, 816-655-6227

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