You know those times you’re not quite sure how long your leftovers have been sitting in the fridge? Unfortunately the sniff test doesn’t always cut it. Let’s talk about how a few simple tips can prevent you from getting food poisoning from your leftovers. Because clenching your butt cheeks and running to the toilet every 5 minutes is not a fun day.

Why leftovers can give you diarrhea

Experiencing diarrhea after eating leftovers is actually food poisoning. While our food in Canada is among the safest in the world, millions of Canadians get food poisoning every year. Signs and symptoms can range from diarrhea, stomach cramping, and nausea to much more serious side effects.

The reason that leftovers sometimes cause diarrhea is because of the bacteria that grows on food when it’s stored improperly or kept for too long. Sometimes you can’t see or smell the bacteria, so it’s best practice to follow the food safety tips below.

How to store leftovers safely

The good news is, how we store our food is an easy way to prevent diarrhea and other nasty side effects from food that has gone past its expiration date. Protect yourself and your family from food poisoning with these food storage tips:

Avoid the danger zone: Remember to always keep your cold food cold and your hot food hot. Avoid what’s known as the “temperature danger zone” for food between 4 °C to 60 °C, where bacteria can grow quickly. Your best bet is to refrigerate your leftovers within two hours after they’ve cooled down. If it’s hot out, then get those leftovers in the fridge within an hour.

Know your fridge temperature: Ensure your fridge is set at 0 °C to 4 °C and your freezer at -18 °C or lower. 

Check the lifespan of your leftovers: The next time you’re prowling for leftovers, check the lifespan first with this list of fridge storage times and leave the guesswork out.

Store leftovers in a clear container: A clear container makes it easy to see what’s inside of it, so you don’t forget about it past the still-okay-to-eat window. Pro tip: write the date on the container with a washable marker so you can know when you put it in the fridge.

Reheat your leftovers to kill bacteria

As long as you’re eating your refrigerated leftovers within the recommended 2 to 4 day window, heating your leftovers to at 74°C (165°F) will kill germs. Pro tip: reheat only as much as you plan to eat since leftovers should only be reheated once.

What’s your vote for the best leftover food? Leave your choice in the comments below!

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