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Chances are, you’re going to have Thanksgiving leftovers.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there is a shelf-life to those leftovers. Here are some tips from the department to help you stay safe this Thanksgiving!

Handling food safely (via the U.S. Department of Agriculture):

  • 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 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 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.

Source: USDA

Anne Erickson's love for music drew her into radio, and she started shortly after graduating from MSU. She has a passion for rock and metal, plus local music. She also fronts the band Upon Wings. Email Anne at erickson@WRIF.com, follow her on Instagram at @EricksonAnne and tweet at her @AnneErickson!