This is what you should never do with leftovers

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Preserving them correctly is key to avoid waste, but also to avoid ingesting spoiled preparations.

Every year 1.7 billion tons of food are wasted around the world, hence the authorities insist on the need to reduce this expense. Achieving it is the responsibility of governments, but also of citizens, who with small daily actions can help alter this bad figure. Proper handling of leftovers is key to avoid unnecessary food waste, but also to avoid eating bad preparations that can cause us food poisoning.

In the first place, if we cook more food than we are going to consume at the moment, it is important to take into account some conservation and storage recommendations. “We should let them cool down a bit and put them in the fridge or freezer as soon as possible to avoid spending more time than necessary in the danger zone. In other words, in an environment between 4-65 degrees “, explains Lluís Riera, a graduate in Chemistry and Food Science and Technology.

The expert clarifies that this temperature is ideal for the proliferation of microorganisms that can damage our preparations and also make us sick. “Sometimes the taste, smell and appearance is insufficient to know if the food is in bad condition. For this reason it is advisable not to leave it to room temperature more than 1-2 hours, depending on the time of year, “he adds.

We must be especially careful with raw foods, preparations with eggs, protein or liquid, where it is easier for microorganisms to proliferate. “They love the combination of protein and liquid, so we have to keep them cold as soon as possible,” says Riera. On the other hand, if it is sauces with raw egg, slightly curdled potato omelettes or remains of the dish where we have eaten, it is better not save it. Especially in summer, when the temperatures are higher.

But do not spread panic. If, for fear that our leftovers will deteriorate, we store them in the refrigerator when they are still very hot, the consequences can be devastating for the rest of the food and for the appliance, which in the long term could end up being damaged.

Also food technologist Miguel Ángel Lurueña argues that storing leftovers in this way “increases the temperature of the rest of the stored foods,” which can cause them to spoil. “Enough that do not burn to the touch to put them in “, recommends the author of the blog Gominolas de Petróleo. To cool them faster, Lluís Riera shares a very simple trick.” We can submerge the container where we store the leftovers in cold water, so the temperature will drop immediately “.

Once cooled, it is also essential to store them properly. Both experts advise that we use airtight containers (It does not matter if they are made of plastic or glass) suitable for storing food and suitable for keeping in a refrigerator, information that can be consulted in the icons printed on the walls of the container. They also add that it is better to place them on the upper shelves of the refrigerator, in order to prevent other raw foods from dripping on top.

“If we want to do it well at all, the ideal is to label the containers with the Preparation dateIn order to know how long these leftovers have been stored, “adds Miguel Ángel Lurueña. Generally, it is recommended not to take more than three days to consume them again, but it will also depend on each type of preparation and the ingredients it contains.

And how many times can we reheat them? “Only once. It is important to expose the food as little as possible to the danger zone. Its proliferation slows down when the food is refrigerated, but with the heat they are activated again”, warns Riera. In other words, the more times we repeat this operation, the greater the bacteria load. Therefore, if we plan to continue reusing the leftovers, we must remove only those that we are going to consume from the refrigerator and keep the rest cold so that they do not deteriorate.

We must be especially cautious when reheating rice and pastaas they may be contaminated with the bacteria Bacillus cereus. It is a heat-sensitive microorganism that sometimes produces spores that, in addition to being toxic, are very resistant. Ingesting them can cause vomiting and diarrhea and in especially serious cases, even death. He Journal of Clinical Microbiology published last year the case of a Belgian boy who died after eating a pasta dish cooked five days before and stored in a container at room temperature, precisely intoxicated by this bacteria. “But this outcome is not usual. The normal thing is to suffer only a gastroenteritis,” says Lurueña.

As for how to reheat food, both experts agree. “The best thing to do is to use the kitchen. Even if it takes longer, the food will heat up more evenly. With the microwave it is only possible to achieve the same result by removing the leftovers several times to mix them in the process. It is the only way to get the heat to spread out well “, concludes Lurueña.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations created the hashtag #NoWaste to raise awareness about the need to reduce food waste figures, which each year increase worryingly. With the same purpose, share six tips to combat this problem with everyone. They are as follows:

1. Be realistic: Plan ahead and don’t prepare food for 50 if only 5 are going to dinner.

2. Freeze the food that was left over or shared with the guests. Whatever is left, immediately put it in the freezer for another day.

3. I turned leftover food into lunch or dinner the next day: There is a wide range of creative recipes to give your leftovers a new life. In fact, several dishes started from the desire not to waste fruit, vegetables or bread (such as stews and goulash).

4. Finish off leftovers before cooking something new.: The instinct to do something different for each meal is quite common, but before cooking a new dish, check if you have something prepared and safe stored in the fridge or freezer.

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