top of page

Leftover Food Hazards

The holidays not only bring out the most delicious meals and treats but the spectator of food-borne illness from improperly managed leftovers.

Seniors and adults with chronic health problems are among the most vulnerable. As we age, our digestive tracts slow, giving bacteria more time to cause harm. Seniors also experience diminished sense of smell and taste which can make it more difficult to notice spoiled food.

In general, hot foods should be refrigerated as soon as possible within two hours after cooking. But don't keep the food if it's been standing out for more than two hours. Don't taste test it, either. Even a small amount of contaminated food can cause illness. Date leftovers so they can be used within a safe time. Generally, they remain safe when refrigerated for up to three days. Your leftovers will last even longer if you freeze them. Turkey does especially well. Re-heat turkey to between 140 and 165 degrees. If in doubt, throw it out, says FDA microbiologist Kelly Bunning, Ph.D., associate senior science adviser in CFSAN: "It's not worth a foodborne illness for the small amount of food usually involved." (Excerpted from the FDA Consumer , July 2002)

FDA's Food Information Line1-888-SAFEFOOD (1-888-723-3366)

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page