Holiday leftovers are very popular in our home. We sometimes have enough leftover food to eat for another week following Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, but some of these foods pose a massive potential health risk if not thrown out sooner than later.

Many Idahoans are hosting Christmas celebrations and dinners this Sunday evening. I'll be cooking for five, and have compiled a menu consisting of a small turkey, ham, potatoes, green beans, rolls, macaroni and cheese, and a homemade cheesecake for dessert. I'm not a fan of ham, so we went with an additional meat.

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I've been preparing holiday meals since the mid-nineties. I used to work for a high-level group home and part of my job was cooking holiday meals in a residence that housed up to 10 troubled kids. I obviously did everything in my power to make sure none of my dinner guests got sick from undercooked or tainted food.

Most of you know that an undercooked turkey can sicken people very quickly. If you don't properly thaw and wash the turkey before it goes in the oven, you're risking bacteria contamination. Salmonella poisoning is very common during the holidays.

Potatoes need to also be thoroughly cleaned and served quickly due to the fact they can harbor pesticides, and if they're stored in the refrigerator as leftovers, there is an increased risk for botulism, according to

Dishes containing fruit and dairy, gravy from turkey drippings, and certain vegetables should be tossed out no more than 48 hours after the meal was served to prevent bacteria from sickening family and friends.

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