SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — By now, you might be getting ready to dig into your 4th of July picnic leftovers. But before you pile the potato salad and cole slaw onto your paper plates, you’ll want to make sure what you’re eating is still safe. There are precautions you need to take to prevent your picnic menu from spoiling.

Sioux Falls native Duane Sinning knows all about a 4th of July picnic gone bad.

“A long time ago, at McKennan Park, we sat out with potato salad for too long in the day while we played some games and that evening was not as pleasant as we wanted when the fireworks were starting,” Sinning said.

When summer temperatures heat up, you have a smaller window to keep picnic food out in the open.

“I wouldn’t have anything out more than an hour, the sooner you can get it with colder, cooler temperatures, the better. Otherwise the rule of thumb is about 2-hours on a cooler day,” Hy-Vee Dietitian Amanada Lambrechts said.

You want to keep your picnic leftovers out of the dreaded “danger zone.” A temperature range between 40-degrees and 140-degrees Fahrenheit where nasty bacteria can thrive.

“And so, this typically will happen if food’s been sitting out, or if you’re not cooling it correctly, that’s when you’re more likely to get sick,” Lambrechts said.

It’s best to store picnic leftovers in smaller containers, that way, they’ll get colder, quicker than inside large containers. And if you have any doubts about the spread on the picnic table, the smell test is always an option.

“If it smells kind of funky, probably err on the side of caution, not worth the risk, I guess,” Lambrechts said.

Sinning says he’s learned his 4th of July picnic lesson by making sure mayonnaise-based products like potato and macaroni salads don’t sit out too long. That way, the fireworks stay in the sky and not in the stomach.

Picnic leftovers are good for about three to four days in the refrigerator. After that, it’s best to throw them out.

If you’d like to learn how to reheat leftovers safely, click here