How long can you keep leftover food?

It is a sign of the times that we live in that many organisations are concerned about being taken to court for a wide range of issues, one being what they do (or do not do) with leftover food. For small business owners in the food industry, it can be a hard decision to look at leftover food that is essentially good, and make the decision to throw it away, for fear that if donated, it will become a liability. Many vendors think that if someone gets sick from food that they give away, then the business will be blamed and it is not worth the legal issue, regardless of whether they had completed a food safety course and provided perfectly healthy food. They simply cannot be sure of what people might do (or not do) with their food once it has left their store. Another reason is that stores sometimes are simply low on space, so logistically, there is not enough space to keep leftover food before they can find a time to donate it.

When we purchase takeaway food, lots of people would definitely say that they enjoy eating cold pizza the next day, or that they would reheat Asian takeaway leftovers the next day. Some people have a habit of cooking a lot of rice and then eating from the large bowl across the course of a week. From a general consumers perspective, when we prepare the food ourselves, because we are in control of knowing how long food has been left out at certain temperatures after it has been prepared at home, there are some basic guidelines that we can follow to ensure that we are being safe.

Takeaway food – a lot of food safety precautions is mostly about how long the food has been left out, as once it gets into a certain temperature range, that is when harmful bacteria can grow. Pizza and Chinese takeaway food should be eaten within a day of purchase, where it has been put back in the fridge less than an hour after it has been purchased. Also, when you look to reheat food the following day, it should be reheated to above 60 degrees Celsius for at least 30 seconds to kill bacteria that may have been forming. Rice is something to be particularly careful of, especially if getting from a takeaway where the food may have been sitting in bain-maries for extended periods of time. Rice can develop spores quite quickly which does not necessarily die when rice is reheated. It is generally not recommended to reheat rice when bought away from home. It is OK to cook and keep rice at home n the fridge, but it is best to make sure it is consumed within three days.

Frozen food – if you take home frozen meals, be mindful to take freezer bricks with you to make sure that you can maintain the low temperatures as you safely transport the food home and store it in your freezer. Reheating – whenever you are reheating food, it should be piping hot, so much so that it is quite impossible to put in your mouth when you first pull it out the microwave or oven.



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