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WVU expert advises keeping leftovers out of ‘danger zone’

A plate of holiday food is shown I this photograph as is a woman's hand holding a gold-tone fork. On the main white plate are green beans, corn and turkey. Smaller dishes on the table hold stuffing, rolls, and colorful potatoes.

Holiday leftovers enter the 'danger zone' and could cause foodborne illness if left out for too long. Keep your family safe this holiday season with these recommendations from a WVU Extension expert. (WVU Photo/Scott Lituchy)

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What do your Thanksgiving leftovers have in common with Maverick and Goose from “Top Gun”? They’re all potentially headed for the “danger zone” and one West Virginia University expert is suggesting ways to keep them out of it.

Bacteria will grow rapidly if food remains within danger zone temperatures, which can lead to foodborne illness that will take your breath away.  

But it’s easy to avoid writing checks your body can't cash. Just feel the need for speed and get your leftovers in the fridge as soon as possible. 

Gina Wood with the WVU Extension Family Nutrition Program offers tips on keeping your food safe. 


“Any food sitting between 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit is in the danger zone. In the danger zone, bacteria multiply quickly — doubling every 15 to 20 minutes. And these bacteria can make you very, very sick.  

“Leftovers should not be left to sit out longer than two hours. Divide your food into several small airtight containers before refrigerating. This allows the food to cool to a safe temperature in the fridge and makes them handier to reheat and enjoy.

“Leftovers kept in the refrigerator are safe to eat within three to five days. If you want Thanksgiving to last even longer, leftovers keep between two to six months in the freezer.” — Gina Wood, Extension specialist and coordinator, WVU Extension Family Nutrition Program 

West Virginia University experts can provide commentary, insights and opinions on various news topics.  Search for an expert by name, title, areas of expertise or college/school/department in the Experts Database at WVUToday.



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