Black Friday generated an astonishing $9.2 billion (USD) in retail sales last year.
Once again, the time has come for millions of people across the United States to gear up for the busiest shopping day of the year, but before the big day arrives, many of us will be munching our way through those Thanksgiving leftovers.
Although consuming leftovers is a great way to avoid food waste, at the same time it’s important to make sure that your two-day-old turkey doesn't become a recipe for disaster. After all, food-related illnesses are all too common in the United States – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 6 Americans suffer from foodborne illnesses each year.
Here are five essential tips to keep your Black Friday safe from spoiled leftovers:
1. Ensure food is properly stored
Perishable items like turkey, ham, and various side dishes should be refrigerated within two hours of being served. Any leftovers you wish to keep should be stored at or below 40°F (4°C) to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
Invest in food storage containers to keep your food fresh and organized. Label them with the date of preparation to help you keep track of when they should be consumed. If you're unsure about how long a particular dish can be safely stored, use the USDA FoodKeeper app as a handy reference tool.
2. Reheat leftovers thoroughly
If you plan to reheat your Thanksgiving leftovers, make sure you do it safely to eliminate any potential pathogens. Use a food thermometer to ensure that reheated food reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). This step is crucial to kill any bacteria that might have started to grow during storage.
When microwaving, make sure to stir food and rotate the dish to heat it evenly. Remember that gravies and sauces should be heated separately. Never partially reheat leftovers and then store them again, as this can create a breeding ground for harmful microorganisms.
3. Keep an eye on expiration dates
Leftovers can be a delicious way to enjoy Thanksgiving for a few more days, but they're not meant to last forever. Pay attention to expiration dates on the original packaging of ingredients, and try to consume the leftovers within three to four days.
Some items may last longer, while high-risk foods like seafood or dairy may spoil more quickly. If in doubt, consider freezing your leftovers, as this can extend their shelf life significantly. When reheating frozen food, make sure it’s completely thawed before heating it to the appropriate temperature.
4. Maintain cleanliness and hygiene
Thanksgiving can be a busy time, but that’s not an excuse for getting complacent when it comes to good hygiene practices.
Before handling food, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Also ensure that utensils, cutting boards, and countertops are clean and sanitized.
Cross-contamination is a common cause of foodborne illnesses, so separate raw ingredients from cooked foods and wash hands and utensils between handling different items. By practicing good hygiene, you can significantly reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses.
5. Educate yourself and others
One of the most effective ways to keep your Black Friday free from spoiled leftovers is to educate yourself and those around you about food safety. The first step could be to share this article, but it may even be worth enrolling on a training course to access professional learning materials and acquire a greater understanding.
You can share what you learn with your family and friends, especially those responsible for preparing and storing the Thanksgiving feast. By raising awareness about the importance of food safety, you can help protect your loved ones from the discomfort and disruption caused by food-related illnesses.