How long are holiday leftovers be safe to eat? Virginia Tech expert weighs in

BLACKSBURG, Va. – After the holidays, you may have more leftovers than you know what to do with.

Looking at all the leftovers, you may be considering two options: keep or toss.

Food experts said that leftovers should only last three to four days, but when in doubt, you should throw them out.

Melissa Wright, Food Producer at the Technical Assistant Network at Virginia Tech, said you can use any sort of food storage to keep your leftovers in.

However, after four days pass, bacteria may grow and may become harmful.

“Even when leftovers are refrigerated, some bacteria can grow such as listeria at refrigerated temperatures, that’s why refrigerated items at the grocery store have a shelf life of seven days because that’s the period can grow and make you sick,” Wright said.

We’re told it’s important that leftovers are stored at less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

She said if you are reheating leftovers, they should be warmed to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit and it’s always best to check that with a food-safe thermometer.


About the Authors

Alli Graham came aboard the digital team as an evening digital content producer in June 2022.