A Practical Guide to the Shelf Life of Thanksgiving Leftovers

Each year, millions of Americans suffer symptoms of foodborne illness due to mishandling and poor storage of Thanksgiving dinner leftovers. The following is the Fridge Police guide to shelf life for Thanksgiving dinner leftovers.
Nov. 15, 2010 - PRLog -- Thanksgiving dinner is finally over. You’ve pushed away from the table, unbuckled your belt (or at least let it out a bit) and you’re now ready to enjoy some football and/or some family time. Or are you?  

Thanksgiving is one of our most beloved American holidays.  But after the meal, danger lurks on that dinner table.  Some of nastiest, ugliest, most heinous visitors are dying to “crash” your party.  No, we’re not talking about friends or neighbors looking for a free dessert… we’re talking about visitors with strange foreign names like, Salmonella, Campylobacter Jejuni, Staphylococcus Aureus and Listeria Monocytogenes.  All of these are foodborne bacteria which, unless preventative measures are taken, will quickly attach themselves to the Thanksgiving delicacies you’ve been enjoying for the past several hours.   With their visits, these bacteria and viruses are accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and sometimes….even death.

David Jack, inventor of Fridge Police, the automatic shelf life tracker for the iPhone reminds users that "once the holiday dinner is over and the guests have been fed -- that's  when the real care needs to be taken with regard to food safety and storage."  Jack continues “with respect to Thanksgiving foods, there are very specific shelf life guidelines that consumers need to pay attention to in order to protect their families from illness.  Our iPhone application helps consumers easily track open food items and educates consumers to the recommended shelf life for packaged and fresh foods “

The Fridge Police guide to Thanksgiving leftover shelf life is as follows:

A turkey could be considered an incubator for foodborne illness.  The Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria  live in the intestinal track of poultry and other warm blooded animals.  Great care needs to be taken with regard to preparation and storage of poultry.  After turkey has been cooked it should immediately be stored in the refrigerator.  Maximum refrigerated storage: 3 to 4 days,

Since stuffing typically uses juices and giblets from the turkey, the same rules that applied to turkey, apply to stuffing.  It should be noted that the Food Drug Administration recommends that consumers NOT stuff a turkey before cooking it.  However, if you decide to cook your turkey stuffed, it is important that the center of the stuffing reach a minimum of 165 degrees.  Food temperature should be closely monitored with a meat thermometer. Maximum refrigerated storage: 3 to 4 days.

Potatoes and Veggies
Leftover potatoes (including mashed) should never be left unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours.  If you inadvertently leave potatoes out overnight, don’t think that they can’t harm you  -- they can.  Leftovers left out overnight should be discarded.  Potatoes and vegetables should be stored in tight-lidded, shallow containers to inhibit bacteria growth.  Reheating is allowable, but food should be heated uniformly to a minimum temperature of 165.  Covering leftovers before reheating is also encouraged to help retain the foods’ moisture.  It should be noted that if you’re using a microwave to reheat your food, take care to measure the temperature in several spots within the food as microwaves do not typically reheat items uniformly (as do ovens).  Maximum refrigerated storage: 3 to 4 days.

Cranberry Sauce
Cranberries are quite unique as they are one of only three fruits that are native to North America!  The others are the blueberry and the Concord grape!  As fun and tasty as this  Thanksgiving dinner staple is, leftover cranberry sauce needs to be handled with care.   Always remove the leftover sauce from the can and store it in a tightly covered container.  According to Ocean spray, the largest U.S. manufacturer of Cranberry Sauce, an open can of cranberry sauce should be consumed within 2 weeks.  Maximum refrigerated storage: 14 days.

When considering the shelf life of pie, the Fridge Police recommends that consumers accurately determine a pie's ingredients.    Pies that require immediate refrigeration are those made with dairy or eggs such as pumpkin, creme or custard pies.   With prompt refrigeration, these pies have a recommended shelf life of 1 to 2 days.  It should be noted that crème pies purchased from a supermarket generally are prepared according to strict “shelf stability” standards imposed by the Food and Drug Administration and typically have shelf life recommendations printed on their labels.
Fruit pies on the other hand, generally have a longer refrigerated shelf life. Maximum refrigerated storage:  3 to 4 days.

Thanksgiving should be a time for family, good food and good mood.  Don’t let uninvited bacteria spoil your holiday. Follow these recommended Fridge Police guidelines and ensure a safe Thanksgiving holiday for your family and loved ones.

The Fridge Police  iphone application available through http://www.fridgepolice.com determines shelf life  through various sources including the Food and Drug Administration http://www.fda.gov.  Any questions regarding food safety, preparation and storage should always be referred to your local government agency.

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