Have you been to a restaurant and taken leftovers home? Did you leave them in the car for a few hours while running errands? How long did you leave them in the refrigerator before eating that delectable leftover?
As a safe rule, we suggest foods, that otherwise require refrigeration, should not be eaten if they have been at room temperature for more than 4 hours. During that four hours there may have been significant bacteria growth. If you leave the leftovers in the car during warmer weather, while you run errands, the food could become unsafe to eat. Beyond the time/room temperature abuse there are time limits for refrigeration.
The USDA has developed a chart with time limit guidelines that define outer limits of when refrigerated foods are safe to eat. This chart is based on the assumption that there has not been significant time/room temperature abuse. I have extracted and rearranged some of the data for ease of memory.
|Product||Refrigeration (below 40 ºF)|
|Raw chicken, turkey, pork, beef or sausage.||1 to 2 days|
|Hamburger, ground beef, fish, chicken, turkey, veal, pork or lamb.||
1 to 2 days
|Steaks, chops or roast||3 to 5 days|
|Cooked meat or poultry||3 to 4 days|
|Chicken nuggets or patties||3 to 4 days|
|Pizza||3 to 4 days|
|Eggs hard cooked||1 week|
Next time you get sick from restaurant leftovers, remember that you may have gotten sick because of your own time/room temperature abuse.
Don’t blame the restaurant for that illness.