September is National Food Safety Month and, while you may think you understand the bacteria and mold content of everything in your fridge, think again. Those little things we can’t see, such as bacteria, toxins, and other particles, can add up to a big problem when it comes to leftover foods.
Food Safety 101.
Preparing food safely is important, but it’s only half the battle. You or the restaurant preparing your meal may have followed the five steps of food safety, which include:
- Keep a clean space
- Separate raw and cooked foods
- Cook thoroughly
- Keep food at safe temperatures
- Use safe water and raw materials.
Pretty easy and mostly common sense, right? But these steps are speaking to what to do while preparing the food. So, what do you do when it comes to leftovers? Your favorite takeout or restaurant food may not be fit for consumption if you bring it home and leave it in the fridge for a few days. How is a foodie to know what is safe to eat and what could make you sick?
Some popular choices should probably be left out of the doggie bag.
Some of your preferred nosh may not be safe if you bring it home to reheat later. Check out what we found about your takeout faves:
French fries or other deep-fried goodies are not a healthy reheat option.
While fries or onion rings taste simply delectable the day they are made, reheating them at home will not provide the same result and, instead, could lead to the consumption of toxins. You see, frying oils are not stable if they are reheated at high temps (AKA, the microwave) and begin to release harmful toxins. If you insist on eating those dried-out fries the next day, you need to turn on the oven to a low temperature and warm them that way. The problem? The result will probably pale in comparison to what you chowed down on the night before.
Cold pizza might not be great for your health.
It may seem like we are trying to steer you away from all of life’s college-age pleasures, but we promise we have the best intentions. Pizza, with its cheese, meats, sauce, and dough, should not be left out on the counter for longer than two hours. After this time frame it may grow bacteria and should be stored in an airtight container. If you want to enjoy those leftovers, reheating them is probably the best way to ensure your food is safe and free of bacteria. Sorry to all of you cold pizza lovers out there, but eat at your own risk!
Poultry might grow salmonella even after it is cooked.
Most at-home chefs know to be careful with raw poultry because of the threat of bacteria such as salmonella. However, what you may not know is that this bacterium may grow back in cooked chicken, even if it is stored in the fridge. Not only that, but microwaves may also not always penetrate food with even levels of heat, making it easier for bacteria to hide. If you are planning to heat leftovers of your chicken dinner from last night, use the stove top or oven and make sure the meat reaches an even 165 degrees.
Maybe just skip the buffet.
Although you may not be taking home bags of buffet food, you’re better off skipping this way of eating. You don’t know how long food has been sitting out or if it has always been kept at a safe temperature. Some restaurants will reheat food to place it on the buffet, making it even more likely to carry bacteria. And don’t even get us started on cross-contamination.
Eating healthy foods free of harmful bacteria is important in any healthy lifestyle. Not only can toxins or bacteria make you acutely sick right away, sometimes they may linger in your system or cause other troubles. Stick to smaller portions at restaurants and at home so that you aren’t tempted to eat leftovers too often. When you do decide to go for something easy like leftovers, make sure to use proper precautions to keep yourself and your family safe.