Information Update - Reminding Canadians How to Safely Consume Leftovers

OTTAWA, March 12, 2013 /CNW/ - Many Canadians enjoy eating leftovers from holiday festivities, family gatherings or from dining out. However, leftovers need to be properly handled. Health Canada would like to remind all Canadians of some basic steps they can take to ensure that leftovers are eaten safely to help reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

Handling leftovers

  • Before and after handling leftovers, wash your hands as well as all utensils, dishes and work surfaces with hot soapy water.
  • Keep foods out of the danger zone, between 4°C (40°F) and 60°C (140°F) to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
  • Throw away any cooked food left in the danger zone for more than two hours.
  • Never rely on your nose, eyes or taste buds to judge the safety of food. You cannot tell if food is contaminated by its look, smell or taste. When in doubt, throw it out!

Cooling leftovers

  • Refrigerate all hot leftovers promptly in uncovered, shallow containers so they cool quickly.
  • Very hot items can first be cooled at room temperature. Refrigerate once steaming stops.
  • Leave the lid off or wrap loosely until the food is cooled to refrigeration temperature.
  • Avoid overstocking the refrigerator to allow cool air to circulate freely.

Storing leftovers

  • Always use a clean container to hold leftovers, or wrap leftovers in leak-proof plastic bags to prevent cross-contamination. Keep different types of leftovers separate.
  • Eat refrigerated leftovers within 2 to 3 days, or freeze them for later use.
  • Date leftovers to help identify the contents and to ensure they are not stored too long.

Defrosting leftovers

  • Thaw frozen leftovers in the refrigerator or in the microwave. Ensure food is properly sealed.
  • Use the defrost setting of your microwave and make sure leftovers are completely defrosted before reheating.
  • Consume or cook the leftovers immediately after they have thawed.

Reheating leftovers

  • Reheat leftovers to a safe internal temperature of 74ºC (165ºF).
  • Use a digital food thermometer to check the temperature.
  • Bring gravies, soups and sauces to a full, rolling boil and stir during the process.
  • Discard uneaten leftovers after they have been reheated.

Reheating in a microwave

  • Use only containers and plastic wrap designed for use in the microwave.
  • Loosen the lid or wrap to allow steam to escape.
  • Stop the microwave midway through reheating and stir the food so that the heat is evenly distributed.
  • Rotate the plate several times during cooking if your microwave does not have a rotating tray.

It's estimated that there are approximately 11 million cases of food-related illnesses in Canada every year.  Many of these illnesses could be prevented by following proper food handling and preparation techniques.

For more information on food safety tips for leftovers, please visit:

Healthy Canadians

Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education

Stay connected with Health Canada and receive the latest advisories and product recalls using social media tools.

SOURCE Health Canada



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