How long can you keep Christmas leftovers in fridge

Following a Christmas feast, the fridge is usually stuffed with all kinds of cooked meat, seafood and veggies.  

But unless this food is stored correctly and eaten within a certain amount of time, there is a serious risk of contamination and food poisoning.

‘When we think of food safety, there are low and high-risk foods, Aloysa Hourigan, a senior nutritionist from Nutrition Australia told FEMAIL.

Low-risk foods include fruit and vegetables while high-risk foods contain protein and have moisture in them – so things like dairy products, eggs, chicken, meat and seafood.

Here, FEMAIL takes a look at the five foods most likely to end up in your fridge after Christmas lunch and reveals the safest storage times for each.

Senior nutritionist Aloysa Hourigan (pictured) said foods fall into two categories: high risk - those containing protein and moisture, and low risk - including fruit and vegetables

Senior nutritionist Aloysa Hourigan (pictured) said foods fall into two categories: high risk - those containing protein and moisture, and low risk - including fruit and vegetables

Senior nutritionist Aloysa Hourigan (pictured) said foods fall into two categories: high risk – those containing protein and moisture, and low risk – including fruit and vegetables

HOLIDAY HAM

Given a leg of ham generally features as the centrepiece of most Christmas meals, it’s likely most households will be storing a ham in the fridge for a good while afterwards.

‘Your Christmas ham will keep several weeks with proper handling,’ said Ms Hourigan.

She advised removing it from its plastic wrap and covering with a clean cloth so it doesn’t dry out, as well as following any instructions on the packaging.

Although it is a high-risk food, because it’s preserved with salt it does tend to last longer.  However, if there are no immediate plans to eat it, freezing is recommended.

Christmas ham tops the list of foods most likely to feature at the centre of a holiday celebration

Christmas ham tops the list of foods most likely to feature at the centre of a holiday celebration

Christmas ham tops the list of foods most likely to feature at the centre of a holiday celebration

ROAST PORK 

Similarly to ham, pork is a high-risk food and needs proper storage to ensure there’s no risk of it becoming contaminated.

Ms Hourigan recommended keeping cooked pork covered in the fridge for a maximum of 48 hours.

‘At the same time, you need to make sure your fridge temperature is set to five degrees or under,’ she said. 

The dietitian said while pork could be frozen it was better to do this immediately rather than leave it in the fridge for a few days.

She also highlighted the importance of not refreezing food that had been already cooked and frozen once as the constant thawing process could lead to contamination.

If you're planning on freezing left over pork it's better to do so immediately rather than wait a couple of days

If you're planning on freezing left over pork it's better to do so immediately rather than wait a couple of days

If you’re planning on freezing left over pork it’s better to do so immediately rather than wait a couple of days

CHICKEN AND POULTRY

Chicken and poultry should be handled in a similar way to pork and shouldn’t be kept in the fridge for longer than 48 hours.

‘If you have cooked it fresh, you can freeze it later,’ she said.

She also warned that chicken that hasn’t been properly cooked or left out in the heat can become contaminated with salmonella and campylobacter bacteria.

Symptoms of salmonellosis – a type of gastroenteritis caused by salmonella – include fever, headache, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.

Symptoms usually start around six to 72 hours after contaminated food is eaten and usually last for four to seven days.

Frozen chicken should always be defrosted in the fridge, as this is the safest way to keep it out of the temperature danger zone which is between five and 60 degrees centigrade for high-risk foods.

Chicken that is left out in the heat can become a contaminated with salmonella and campylobacter bacteria

Chicken that is left out in the heat can become a contaminated with salmonella and campylobacter bacteria

Chicken that is left out in the heat can become a contaminated with salmonella and campylobacter bacteria

FRESH AND COOKED SEAFOOD 

Of all the foods, seafood has the shortest fridge shelf life.

If it’s uncooked it should only be kept for a day, and if cooked no longer than 48 hours.

‘Fresh seafood can be frozen but make sure this is as airtight as possible,’ Ms Hourigan said.

When thawing seafood for a meal, run it under lukewarm water and don’t leave it any longer than 24 hours after being defrosted.

Seafood has the shortest fridge shelf life and if cook needs to be eaten within 48 hours

Seafood has the shortest fridge shelf life and if cook needs to be eaten within 48 hours

Seafood has the shortest fridge shelf life and if cook needs to be eaten within 48 hours

ROAST VEGETABLES 

As vegetables are not high in protein they fall into the category of low-risk foods, the expert explained. 

‘They are less prone to food poisoning and will keep safely if covered for up to three days in the fridge,’ Ms Hourigan said. 

Ms Hourigan also noted the importance of stacking food in the fridge in the right way to avoid any possible contamination.

It's important for food in the fridge to be stacked in the right way

It's important for food in the fridge to be stacked in the right way

It’s important for food in the fridge to be stacked in the right way

‘Make sure high-risk foods such as raw meat are covered and sit at the bottom of the fridge and don’t sit above anything where juices could drip down on to other food,’ she said. 

She also explained the ‘two hour, four hour rule’ as a general guide to food storage. 

‘If food has only been out of the fridge for two hours you can put it back in the fridge to eat at a later time,’ she said.

‘If it’s been out of the fridge for between two to four hours, then it should be eaten straightaway and can’t really be put back in the fridge and taken out again.

‘And if it’s been out of the fridge for more than four hours, throw it out.’

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