Bacterial food poisoning is the most common and often results from mishandling of food. It usually includes food infection and food intoxication.
Bacteria multiply fast in food with moisture, warmth and time. One bacterium can multiply easily to more than one million in just eight hours. They multiply best between five degrees and sixty three degrees Celsius but are killed at temperatures of seventy degrees Celsius.
At temperatures below five degrees Celsius, most bacteria multiply very slowly, if at all. At very low temperatures some bacteria will die, but many survive and can start to multiply again if warm conditions return.
There are thousands of identified bacteria that may inhibit our leftovers. So to prevent bacterial growth in leftovers you must observed the following:
a) Always wash hands before handling leftovers and always use clean utensils and surfaces of containers.
b) Never mix leftover with fresh food. Keep raw meat and poultry separate from other foods. In short, separate them and don’t cross contaminate.
c) Cook foods to the proper temperature to ensure safety and quality. Virtually all microorganisms multiply rapidly between sixty degrees and one hundred twenty five degrees Fahrenheit. High temperatures reached in boiling, baking, frying and roasting kill most microorganisms that can cause food borne illness.
d) Keep cold foods cold- below forty degrees Fahrenheit. Always refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours of serving. However, we must remember that refrigeration does not stop bacterial growth, it only slows it. Also, the refrigeration is for keeping things cold, not making warm things cold. Bacterial growth is rapid between forty and one hundred forty degrees Fahrenheit. So if you put warm food into the refrigerator, the bacteria will continue to grow rapidly, and the food’s warmth will raise the temperature of the refrigerator.
e) Label leftovers with the current date. Eat or freeze within three to four days.
f) Refrigerate or cooked leftovers and divide them into small, covered shallower containers ( 2 inch deep or less) within two hours after cooking. Leave air space around containers to help assure rapid even cooling.
g) Check the refrigerator once a week and discard old leftovers. Avoid testing old leftovers to determine safety. When in doubt, throw it out!
h) To reheat leftovers, bring sauces, soups and gravy to a boil. Heat leftovers thoroughly to one hundred sixty five degrees Fahrenheit. Never reheat leftovers to a slow cooker. The gradual heating promotes bacterial growth.
i) Cool air must circulate in the refrigerator to keep food safe. That’s why it is important not to stack the shallow containers.
j) Remove stuffing from poultry and stuffed meats and refrigerate them in separate containers.
k) Chill soup in a metal container in an ice bath before storing. Pour the soup into plastic containers after it is cooled. Airtight containers will prevent drying, and prevents flavor spreading to other food.
l) Discard outdated, unsafe or possible unsafe leftovers in a garbage disposal or in a tightly wrapped packages that cannot be consumed by people or animals.
m) Do not thaw meat or poultry on the counter. Bacteria can multiply rapidly at room temperature. Instead, thaw meat or poultry inside the refrigerator. Place the package in the refrigerator immediately after removing it from the freezer.
n) For faster thawing, put the package in the watertight plastic bag submerged in cold water. Change the water every three minutes. The cold water temperature slows bacterial growth that may occur on the outer thawed portions while the inner areas are still thawing.
o) The microwave oven can be used for quick, safe defrosting. Follow the the manufacturer’s directions. Foods defrosted in the microwave oven should be cooked immediately after thawing.
Proper food handling is the key to keep leftovers healthful and prevent from bacterial contamination that causes food borne illness. See a doctor immediately if symptoms of food borne illness strikes.
Do not destroy “suspect” foods but make sure that no one else will eat them. “Suspected” foods may be tested to identify the cause of food borne illness. Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps, are the usual symptoms of a food borne illness.