Can I eat 5-day old leftovers?

In this article, we answer the following question: Can I eat 5-day old leftovers? We will also talk about the steps you should take to safely store leftovers. 

Can you eat 5-day old leftovers? 

No, you can not eat 5-day old leftovers. Leftovers should be consumed within a period of 3-4 days and after a proper preparation (e.g., re-heating) (1-2). If you want to save them for later, freeze them. Doing so will prevent you from the risk of food poisoning (1-3). 

Leftovers are prepared meals that attract many food poisonous bacteria including Salmonella and pathogenic E. coli (4-5). That is why they are susceptible to microbial invasion, even at refrigeration temperature. 

Do not store leftovers if you are not sure about consuming it in the next few days!

Is it safe to eat leftovers after five days? 

Eating leftovers after five days is not safe! Different microorganisms could grow on your food and potentially cause you food poisoning (3-5).

The safety of your leftovers depends on different factors like the type of food, the way you handled and stored, and how you reheated (1-2). It is recommended that you eat your leftovers within 3-4 days!

What are the risks of eating five-day old leftovers? 

The main risk of eating five-day old leftovers is to be poisoned if your food is contaminated with pathogenic bacterias such as Salmonella, E. coli, or Listeria (3-5).

These microorganisms can proliferate on your food when it is stored at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F, which is known as the “danger zone”.

Eating leftovers from the “danger zone” may lead you to experience different symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps (6-7).

You must be very careful as food poisoning in some cases could lead to dehydration, organ failure, and even death (7)!

How can you tell if leftovers have gone bad?? 

You can check for the next sign that indicate that your leftover has gone bad and that they should be thrown out:

  • Check for sour or unpleasant off-odors: This could indicate to you that harmful bacteria have started to grow on your food (8).
  • Check for changes in color and texture: if your leftovers look slimy, discolored, or have a film on the surface you should not eat them and you must throw them out.
  • Check for molds on your leftovers: Molds can produce different toxins that can make you sick (9).
  • Check the taste: If you find that your leftovers have a strange aftertaste or tastes off, you should avoid eating them- this is a clear indication that your food has gone bad!

Finally, if you are not sure if your leftovers are still good to eat, just throw them out and be on the safe side of caution!

What steps can you take to safely store leftovers? 

  • You should store your leftovers in airtight containers in the refrigerator at a temperature below 40°F (4.4°C) right after cooking to slow the growth of pathogenic bacteria (1).
  • Please be aware that you should reheat your leftovers to an internal temperature of at least 167°F (75°C) to be sure that most of the harmful bacteria have been killed (1-2) as recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • You should always properly label your containers with leftovers indicating the date and content, so that you know if they are still good for use or if you should throw them out.

Remember that It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to food safety: if you are not sure if it is still good to eat, just throw them out!


In this article, we answered the following question: Can I eat 5-day old leftovers? We talked about the steps you should take to safely store leftovers. 

Our advice is not to eat 5-day old leftovers. It is best to consume leftovers within two days of preparation at most. The longer food is stored, the greater the risk of food poisoning. Throw away any leftovers that have been stored too long.


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9. Torrey GS, Marth EH. Isolation and Toxicity of Molds from Foods Stored in Homes. J Food Prot. 1977 Mar 1;40(3):187–90.