Thanksgiving tips from FoodSafety.gov

Thanksgiving Leftovers for Safe Keeping, Weekend Grazing
Nov 21, 2018
By: Luis Delgadillo, Senior Public Affairs Specialist
Thanksgiving Day is for family and friends. But Thanksgiving weekend is all about you and those amazing leftovers! Before you dig in, keep these tips handy so that leftovers can stay safely stored in the fridge or freezer.

Turkey
Turkey is a wonderful holiday entree, don’t let it ruin your holiday by sitting out too long.

 

Handling food safely = safe and tasty leftovers

Leftovers should be stored within two hours of cooking. Divide leftovers into smaller portions and refrigerate or freeze them in covered shallow containers so they cool quickly. A large container or whole turkey will take too long to cool down to a safe temperature, which gives bacteria a chance to multiply.
The turkey should also be portioned to ensure quick cooling in the refrigerator.
Seventy-six percent of respondents in a recent USDA study said they would refrigerate leftovers after letting them cool to room temperature first. This is not necessary and could actually make your food unsafe. Leftovers should be placed in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible, even if they still have steam or heat coming off of them.
How long do the turkey and trimmings stay safe in the refrigerator or freezer?

The answer is simple: leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for three to four days. This means you have until the Monday after Thanksgiving to eat all those delicious leftovers or place them in the freezer to enjoy later. If you store leftovers in the freezer, they will be of best quality within 2-6 months.
Not enough consumers know that food can become unsafe in the refrigerator after four days. In fact, 31 percent of participants in our recent research indicated they would eat leftovers kept longer than four days in the refrigerator. After four days, spoilage bacteria can cause food to develop a bad smell or taste.
For those who see themselves forgetting the Monday ‘use or freeze’ deadline, the USDA has a handy app, which triggers reminders to your smartphone or tablet; it’s called the FoodKeeper app.

But FoodKeeper isn’t just a source of helpful reminders. The app also includes storage guidelines for more than 600 food and drink items, tips for safe food preparation, and food product recalls, which were recently integrated into the app. With more than 150,000 downloads for Android and iOS devices, FoodKeeper has established itself as the quick go-to guide for safe food storage and food preparation.

Now, on to the dishes – reheat leftovers safely

It is safe to reheat frozen leftovers without thawing, either in a saucepan or microwave (in the case of a soup or stew) or in the oven or microwave (for example, casseroles and one-pot meals). Reheating will take longer than if the food is thawed first, but it is safe to do when time is short. When reheating leftovers, be sure they reach 165°F, as measured with a food thermometer. Cover leftovers to reheat. This retains moisture and ensures that food will heat all the way through.

Reheating tips:

Reheat sauces, soups and gravies by bringing them to a rolling boil.
When reheating in the microwave, cover and rotate the food for even heating. Arrange food items evenly in a covered microwave-safe glass or ceramic dish and add some liquid if needed. Be sure the covering is microwave safe, and vent the lid or wrap to let the steam escape. The moist heat that is created will help destroy harmful bacteria and will ensure uniform cooking.
Also, because microwaves have cold spots, check the temperature of the food in several places with a food thermometer and allow a resting time before checking the internal temperature of the food with a food thermometer.
If you have additional questions about using your leftovers safely, you can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food safety specialist at AskKaren.gov available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, in English or Spanish.

Safe Camping

Food Safety While Camping
Jun 29, 2015
Janice Lopez-Munoz, MSIH, USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline
Hotdogs heating on a campfire.Camping is a great way to spend time with family and friends while taking in the great outdoors. As you set up your tent and pots and pans, don’t neglect your food safety routine just because you’re outdoors. The safety steps you take when cooking at home don’t change when you cook over a camp fire or grill.

campfire-food

Safe Food and Cooking While Camping
If your camping plans will be for more than a day, meal planning becomes more important. Canned goods are safe and shelf-stable. If your menu includes any of these items they can be stored in your pack without a cold source: peanut butter in plastic jars, concentrated juice boxes, canned tuna, canned chicken, canned beef and dried fruits and nuts.

If your meals will need some cooking, having the necessary equipment at your camping area is a must. Make sure you to pack any equipment you will need (e.g. portable stove) and be sure to include a food thermometer. The only way to determine if your meat or poultry is safe to eat is to use a food thermometer.

Serving Hot and Cold Items While Camping
Burgers are always popular while camping, but ground beef may be contaminated Salmonella or E. coli O157:H7 (a particularly dangerous strain of bacteria). Using of a food thermometer to check if your patties are cooked to a minimum temperature of 160 °F is critical. If the meal plan includes another popular item, hot dogs, make sure they are steaming hot.

Keeping perishables cool is essential to avoid food becoming unsafe. Bacteria multiply rapidly at warm temperatures, and food can become unsafe if held in the “Danger Zone” (40 °F – 140 °F) for more than two hours. If the outdoor temperature is above 90 °F, food can become dangerous after only one hour. That’s why it is essential to pack one or two coolers for your camping trip–one for drinks and snacks and another one for other perishable food. Remember to pack your coolers with ice or frozen gel packs.

Last but not least, don’t forget to pack some disposable wipes or biodegradable soap for your hands and quick cleanups.

If you have any questions, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or visit AskKaren.gov to chat with a Food Safety Specialist. Follow @USDAFoodSafety on Twitter to receive daily tips and information on recalled food.