Dec 2 is four days after Thanksgiving, but is also known as throw out your leftovers day.

Dec. 2 is four days after Thanksgiving, but is also known as throw out your leftovers day.

The four-day throw away rule is a good one to remember all year. Whether your leftovers are from home or from a restaurant, eat them within three to four days or throw them away.

With the holidays fast approaching, food safety is an important thing to keep in mind. Remember the four rules of food safety: clean, cook, chill, separate.

Clean – Wash your hands, wash surfaces, utensils, and wash fruits, vegetables, and the tops of canned goods before eating. The only exceptions are that you do not need to wash bagged salad greens that are labeled as pre-washed or ready to eat. You also do not need to wash raw meat, poultry, or eggs, because the risk of contaminating surfaces or other foods is too risky.

Cook –Keep hot foods at 140 degrees F or higher. Microwave food to 165 degrees F. Use a meat thermometer to safely tell when foods are done. Here are those safe temperatures:

Ground beef – 160 degrees F

Ground turkey/chicken – 165 degrees F

Fresh beef steaks, roasts, chops – 165 degrees F

Chicken and turkey – 165 degrees F

Fresh pork and ham – 145 degrees F

Precooked ham (to reheat) – 140 degrees F

Eggs and egg dishes – Cook until yolk and white are firm or 160 degrees F

Leftovers and casseroles – 165 degrees F

Seafood – 145 degrees F or until fish is opaque and flakes

Chill – Get foods into the refrigerator within two hours and keep your refrigerator below 40 degrees F. Bacteria grow rapidly between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F.

Never thaw or marinade foods on the countertop. You can safely thaw foods in the refrigerator, in a sink full of cold water (must change water every 30 minutes) or microwave if it will be cooked immediately.

Separate – Keep raw and ready to eat foods separate in your grocery cart, grocery bags, and in the refrigerator. Use separate cutting boards for meat and produce.

If you have questions or ideas for future articles, please contact Melissa Bess, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist with University of Missouri Extension. Call the Camden County Extension Center at 573-346-2644 or email Melissa at

Melissa Bess is a health expert with MU Extension and author of a health and wellness blog at