VANCOUVER -- As if we didn’t have enough to worry about this holiday season, it’s also the perfect time for food poisoning from a certain type of bacteria that grows in cooked foods like turkey and beef kept at room temperature.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to keep your leftovers safe from Clostridium perfringens.

You can keep your favourite holiday foods safe and tasty beyond turkey day by following some tips from food and health experts. First, pack any leftover food up as soon as you can.

“You need to pack them away sooner than you might think,” says Amy Keating, Consumer Reports’ nutritionist. “They should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking, regardless of the temperature.” 

Many people leave the turkey out to cool, but that’s not a good idea, she says. 

“A whole turkey can take a long time to cool down, which gives bacteria a chance to multiply.” 

You can store wings and legs on the bone, but slice off the breast meat when it’s time to pack things away. Plan to freeze everything that you wouldn’t be able to eat within three or four days. 

“To preserve the quality of your food and reduce moisture loss, you want to keep it airtight,” Keating says. “So use products specifically designed for the freezer, like freezer bags or paper, or airtight containers.” 

Planning ahead will also help make sure you get through all that food. 

“Think about other meals that work well with those leftovers,” Keating says. “For example, if you have a rice or potato dish, that might pair well with chicken or fish.” 

And plan something creative. Turkey ramen, casseroles, quesadillas, and dumplings are all good ways to use up leftover food. 

It also helps to break down leftovers into meal-sized portions and store them in shallow, covered containers. You can eat cooked turkey cold but if you’re reheating it, use the stove and a little broth or gravy to keep it from drying out. Don’t use the microwave – that tends to give turkey a weird flavour. 

One item you don’t have to worry about going off: fruit pies. They can be stored loosely covered on the counter if you’re planning to eat it in one or two days. But pumpkin pie or any other egg-based or custard pie has to go in the fridge. That is, if there’s any left. 

With files from Consumer Reports