Tips for keeping Thanksgiving leftovers safe

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Although you might have taken all of the necessary precautions to ensure food safety during Thanksgiving, the risk of food poisoning still exists, according the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). The center recently issued a statement to remind consumers to "guard against `left out' leftovers."

"This year, CSPI is issuing a `leftover alert' to remind our holiday chefs that food safety doesn't stop once the meal is prepared," CSPI food safety director Caroline Smith DeWaal said in a statement. "How you handle the food after the meal is equally important," she added.

Each year, an estimated 435,000 cases of food poisoning are caused by improper cooling of fully-cooked turkey, DeWaal noted. Reheating will not always destroy the culpable bacteria, so consumers must act to prevent it, she said.

To help consumers prevent such hazards, CSPI recommends the following 2 hours/2 inches/4 days formula:

--Prepared foods should not be left out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours.

--To speed chilling, foods should be refrigerated at a shallow depth of about 2 inches.

--Leftovers should be eaten within 4 days of the feast. Freeze foods that will be kept longer.

"Following the 2 hours/2 inches/4 days formula for all leftovers could help prevent over 400,000 food-related illnesses each year," DeWaal stated. "These simple steps will help keep your holiday feast from turning into a fiasco."