It's time to throw away the Thanksgiving leftovers, USDA says

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - You worked hard on a Thanksgiving dinner and put away the leftovers to enjoy over the weekend. But if you were holding out for that last turkey, mashed potato and stuffing sandwich, the government says your time is up.

"For any of that ready-to-eat food that is cooked that they're refrigerating, there is a concern for listeria growth," Cheryl Clay, Public Health Environmental Supervisor for the Madison County Health Department, tells WHNT.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Monday, November 26, four days after the holiday, marked the last day thanksgiving leftovers were safe to eat out of the fridge.

"They're going to be overly cautious and looking at the fact that most people's refrigeration is not cold enough," said Clay.

According to the CDC, the listeria bacteria is most harmful to pregnant women and their newborns, adults over the age of 65 and people with weak immune systems.

When inspecting restaurants, Clay says they cannot keep food for more than 7 days at regulation refrigerator temperature.

"A lot of home refrigerators may not be that cold, so they would want to keep that food for even fewer amount of days," Clay explained.

She says your refrigerator should be at 41 degrees or less and recommends getting a probe thermometer to check your food temperature regularly.

For those that want to dive back into their sweet potatoes and green bean casserole in 2019, not to worry.

"If you want to refrigerate for a couple of days, freeze it for six months and then bring it back out to thaw in refrigeration, just make sure that total time in refrigeration is not more than 7 days."

You can still enjoy that delicious meal - until it's time to cook it again.