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Food Safety Tips and Using Leftovers Carefully

There is nothing more satisfying than turning yesterday's leftovers into something as equally, if not, more tasty. To entice us into doing so, there are more and more varied and interesting recipes available giving you ideas of things to make with a multitude of foods. However, many recipes and websites do not mention the food safety issues that should be considered when reheating leftovers.

It must be stressed that there is nothing wrong in using pre-cooked leftover food for up to two days after initial cooking. However, to be able to do this safely, and with confidence, there are a number of things that you must be mindful of.

Follow the simple tips below for safe and satisfying use of leftovers.

Before the cooking even begins

  • always purchase food from reputable suppliers, this includes high street supermarkets, as all food suppliers are required to abide by the same food hygiene legislation. By going to a reputable supplier you can be confident that these checks have been completed.

  • do not wash meat, there is no need to wash meat in the sink before cooking it, water alone does not kill bacteria. All meat contains a certain amount of natural bacteria and by washing it (more commonly turkey and chicken) you are potentially spreading this about the sink area. Any bacteria that are present on meat will be killed by cooking to the correct temperature.

  • exercise care when buying refrigerated foods that have a 'use by' or 'best before' date, where possible get the longest shelf life you can, don't just grab the first one you come to. If shopping online, specify this requirement too. Every extra day helps to prevent unnecessary wastage. Ensure your fridge runs at a temperature of between +3C and +5C, or lower if possible. Most food labels will have this important information. A simple thermometer can be purchased in most supermarkets and cookery shops.

  • do not overstock the fridge, as this will prevent the cold air from circulating efficiently, so stored food will not maintain the required temperature (if there is no space for food, take out the booze!)

  • try to respect what is called the 'chill chain', when buying refrigerated items it's important to keep the foods as near to the temperature that the manufacturer advises on the package, just as the retailer does for you. Any considerable break in this link will reduce the shelf life given by the manufacturer.

  • take care when storing leftover foods, ensure that priority refrigeration space is given to high risk foods, which require refrigeration to continue to be safe. These items include all meats, as well as fresh meat-based gravy and stuffing. These must be cooled and placed back into the fridge as quickly as possible. If you have had turkey or a large bird, it will help if you remove all meat from the bone.

  • If you have an integral garage and the weather is cold enough, lower risk leftovers i.e. salads, non-meat-based soups, vegetables, potatoes etc. could be placed in the garage, if suitably wrapped and protected.

When using cooked leftovers their are basic principles to follow

  • safe reheating, if you own a digital probe thermometer then food should be reheated to a temperature in excess of +75C. If you do not own a thermometer then there are other simple things to do. Ensure that the food is bubbling throughout and that it is stirred sufficiently so as to distribute heat well during the reheating process.

  • reheat leftovers only once, it is very important to know that once the food has been reheated, it cannot be reheated again. Reheating food passes it again through the "optimum temperature danger zone" of +38C. Doing this more than once means there is greater potential for the growth of specific spore-forming bacteria - these can grow even during correct refrigerated storage. Some bacteria form spores that even survive high temperature cooking. These spores can germinate and multiply rapidly if food is not properly held after cooking/cooling and then will not be killed when reheated.

  • remember that you cannot always see or smell bacteria, but if you follow these basic food safety rules then the food should be fine to use. However, if at anytime, you are not confident that the food will be safe to use, then you must always consider throwing it away - especially if it is going to be eaten by young or older members of the family or guests.

Every Council has an Environmental Health service, which is not only concerned with making sure that the places where we buy or eat food are safe, but is also available to give advice to residents too, so, if you have any questions regarding any food safety issues just pick up the phone and ask. You can contact Elmbridge Council's Environmental Services Team on 01372 474750 or |by email.

In this current tight economic climate we all want to eat fresh, safe and healthy food, as well as making our money go further and, of course, reducing our food wastage, |Love Food Surrey has all the top tips and advice on how to do this.

Or visit the |Love Food Hate Waste website.

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