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Can I still eat NYE appetizers?

I hosted a New Year’s Eve party with an array of appetizers, and have a lot leftover. How long will they be safe to eat?

The short answer: It depends…

The explanation: With the holiday season over for another year, you may be opening your refrigerator to shelves filled with leftovers, particularly if you’ve hosted a holiday party or brought home extras from a get together. So how long are those leftovers good? It really depends on what they are and how long they were unrefrigerated.

Most leftovers are safe for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. Those that are freeze-able will be safe for much longer, though quality will deteriorate after 3 to 4 months – but they need to be frozen right away. (Don’t wait out 3 or 4 days then freeze!)  This is because foodborne illness-causing bacteria can grow even in refrigerated foods, and they are not always detectable by taste, smell, or appearance.

There are also some stipulations to the 3 to 4 day and month guidelines:

  • Foods requiring refrigeration should not sit out for more than two hours at room temperature. If the food has not been kept on ice or otherwise kept cold, below 40F, it should be tossed at the end of the party.
  • Similarly, hot foods should be kept above 140F in a warming pan, crockpot, etc. If maintained at that temperature it can then be refrigerated; if not, it should be tossed.
  • Leftover hot foods should be reheated to an internal temperature of 165F, with the food stirred to ensure even heating.
  • If you don’t plan to eat the food within 4 days, it should be immediately frozen. The exception to this is salads (e.g., egg, chicken, ham, tuna, and macaroni, etc.) that do  not freeze well. The frozen food should then be thawed in the refrigerator, microwave, or cold water before cooking

The USDA, FDA, and CDC created a handy cold Food Storage Chart, providing safety and quality longevity of foods when refrigerated and stored. Or check out the FoodKeeper App through which you can browse foods by category or search for a specific item (available online and through Android and Apple devices.)

While we don’t wish to advocate food waste, we do want you to keep your family safe. So where food safety is a concern: If in doubt, throw it out.


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