Help keep those you care about safe from foodborne illness

It’s as easy as taking a peek in the refrigerator weekly or a few times a month to check for spoiled food.

Safe food is not just about the safe preparation and cooking of foods, but also the safe storage of leftovers. Leftovers are a great way to enjoy favorite recipes as well as stretch your food dollars. But leftovers stored at incorrect temperatures or for long periods of time can be unsafe and potentially contain harmful pathogens. Consuming leftovers that are unsafe to eat can lead to foodborne illness especially in a target population, like the elderly, who are more susceptible to becoming sick from eating contaminated foods.

Keeping the refrigerator cleaned out can be a daunting task, but it is a very important job. If you have family or friends who are elderly, it is a good practice to make it a habit to check the food items in the refrigerator whenever you are in their homes. The majority of leftovers are safe to consume only three to four days after they are stored in the refrigerator. While you are checking for the age of leftovers found in the refrigerator, also see if a refrigerator thermometer is being used in the unit. A refrigerator thermometer indicating temperatures between 38-40 degrees Fahrenheit is the only way to make sure the food is at a safe refrigerator storage temperature.

Michigan State University Extension encourages you to help your elderly family and friends understand the importance of keeping the refrigerator at proper temperatures. Also, remind them to label items they put in the refrigerator so everyone can see how old the food items are. No one likes to throw away and waste food but when it comes to staying safe from foodborne illness, sometimes it is necessary.

Follow the tips above and one easy, small way to help keep those you care about safe and healthy.

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