Eating last night’s pasta or meat may be a good way to prevent food waste and save time but it could be bad for our health, experts warn. Picture: Pexels
Eating last night’s pasta or meat may be a good way to prevent food waste and save time but it could be bad for our health, experts warn.

Many experts say the way people store and reheat leftovers could be putting them at risk of food poisoning.

Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA) spokesperson and registered dietitian, Alex Royal said if food was exposed to harmful bacteria, it could cause food poisoning. But leftovers stored correctly was safe.

“Generally, you can keep leftover food in the fridge for three to four days. It is important to stick to this guideline as often the bacteria that causes food poisoning won’t spoil the food by making it smell off, so even if it appears to be fine, don’t take the chance,” advised Royal.

Gregor Klaassen, food technologist at Food Lover’s Market, said reheating leftovers could kill bacteria.

“By heating food, you are killing potential bacteria that might have been growing in the food overnight.”

Royal said it was important to refrigerate your leftovers promptly; don’t allow them to remain at room temperature for more than two hours as bacteria were able to quickly multiply in this temperature zone, known as the “danger zone”.

When asked what’s the difference between “prep meals” and leftovers, Royal said prep meals involved the intentional cooking and storing of portions for future use.

Eating leftovers meant that the meal was not finished so the rest was stored and kept for another time.

For safe storing he suggests:

Sealing food in a good quality container that has a good seal and avoid using plastics that contain BPA.

Suggested times for storing food:

Rice: Let it cool for no longer than an hour and keep in the fridge no more than a day. Only reheat once.

Chicken: Cover and leave to cool to room temperature before storing in the fridge for up to three days. Reheat only once.

Red meat: After cooking, it can be left in the fridge for a few days and eaten cold. If reheating, let it warm up to room temperature first.

Potato: Cooked potato will last up to three days in the fridge.

Green veg: Can be eaten cold or reheated. Chill to room temperature after cooking and keep in fridge for up three days.

Dairy: Leave in its container and keep in the fridge.