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When the big meal's over, know how to safely stow your leftovers

As you are planning for your Thanksgiving meal, don't forget that having room to store what's left can be critical to preventing foodborne illnesses. (Cleveland Clinic)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - There's a warning from food safety experts as we head into the holiday weekend, and it concerns one of the best part of Thanksgiving: leftovers.

As you are planning for your Thanksgiving meal, don't forget that having room to store what's left can be critical to preventing foodborne illnesses. Some of those set in within hours--others after a few days.

A few simple steps, however, can keep the bad bugs away:

Dietitians at the Cleveland Clinic suggest you pack food within two hours of a meal in air tight containers. They should be shallow and the food should be room temperature if they are plastic. Putting foil over a plate lets air in, and that allows bacteria to grow.

That bacteria can build up in almost any food, but the most likely foods to make you sick include those with dairy products, which may include the milk in mashed potatoes, as well as meat or poultry, which includes the turkey and gravy if it's made from meat juices.

Also, don't put the whole turkey in the fridge. It's less likely to make you sick if you pull it off the bone for refrigeration. The stuffing also needs to be taken out of the turkey.

Properly-stored leftovers can usually be safely eaten between three and four days.

If people are traveling with leftovers, pack them on ice for long trips.

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