The Reason Your Leftovers Could Be Making You Sick

Maybe you went out to eat at the local steakhouse and couldn't finish your massive meat and potatoes meal. Or maybe you ordered a little too much Chinese takeout. Or maybe you thought your family would scarf up the lasagna you made, but only half of it got eaten. Regardless of the situation, it's very common to end up with leftovers at the end of a meal. And, if you're someone who believes no food should go to waste, you know it should all be packaged up and stored in the fridge for later. After all, some things — looking at you, pizza — even taste better the second time around.

However, leftovers won't last forever in the refrigerator, no matter how well you seal them. It's easy to know that the casserole covered in fuzzy green mold needs to be tossed, but are there other ways to tell if your leftovers are no longer safe to eat? Here's what you might be missing — and why your leftovers could be making you sick.

You're eating leftovers past their expiration date

If you're currently reaching for a Tupperware of leftover macaroni that you made over a week ago, stop! Even if it looks and smells perfectly fine, you may not want to chance it — and it may be spoiled. According to the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), leftovers only last for three to four days in the fridge. Any longer than that and you're at risk of contracting a foodborne illness or ingesting other potentially harmful bacteria. The FSIS also notes that if your food was left out at room temperature for more than two hours before you go to put it in the refrigerator, you're better off just tossing it in the trash instead because it may no longer be safe.

Healthline adds that "how long foods stay safe depends on a few factors, including safe preparation, proper storage, and the type of food." For instance, some foods — like meat or seafood — are more susceptible to bacteria than others. Regardless, however, they strongly advise following the FSIS' rule of thumb of three to four days.