Extension News

Big Red #4 Protects Consumers from Bad Leftovers

Note to media editors: "4-Day Throw Away" campaign materials and expert interviews are available. Please contact any of the individuals listed in this release for more information, or download the materials directly linked.


AMES, Iowa — Many consumers don’t realize how quickly food leftovers can become unsafe and cause foodborne illnesses. That’s why a giant, red #4 has arrived with the message “after four days, throw it away!”

The “4-Day Throw Away” campaign, which features the #4 as its mascot, is educating consumers about the dangers of foodborne illnesses and the four-day guideline for eating, freezing or throwing away leftovers. It is funded by a United States Department of Agriculture grant and is a partnership between Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Extension.

“We discovered that many consumers are keeping and eating leftovers well past the recommended amount of time, which can lead to foodborne illnesses,” said Julie Albrecht, UNL Extension food specialist. “The campaign aims to not only make them aware of the four-day guideline, but also get them to start practicing it in their homes.”

The campaign is launching just in time for one of the biggest leftovers-producing holidays, Thanksgiving, and will continue through other food-heavy holidays and events, such as Christmas, New Year’s and the Super Bowl.

Albrecht said 25-to-40-year-old parents of young children are a key target for this campaign. The campaign message is being supported through traditional channels, but also has a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

“We really wanted to reach this audience online where they spend their time, but also give them the opportunity to have a conversation about food safety and ask questions of our experts,” Albrecht said.

The red #4 mascot will visit select grocery stores in the Omaha, Neb.-Council Bluffs, Iowa, area; Cedar Rapids-Iowa City, Iowa, area; and Kearney, Neb., area during the campaign. The #4 also stars in a series of four videos portraying common leftovers bad practices where intervention by #4 keeps families safe from foodborne illnesses.

To view more materials from the campaign, please visit the following websites:

The number 4 videos also are available to use as PSAs. To obtain the videos in the format needed, please contact Jed Findlay, ISU Extension video producer, at 515-294-7858, jfindlay@iastate.edu.

Two radio PSAs are available as well. Download the MP3 files for the two scripts:


Contacts :

Julie Albrecht, UNL Extension food specialist, 402-472-8884, jalbrecht1@unl.edu

Ruth Litchfield, ISU Extension nutrition specialist, 515-294-9484, litch@iastate.edu

Christopher Weishaar, ISU Extension communications specialist, 515-294-1327, cweishaa@iastate.edu  Download: Campaign Logo (21.3 KB, .jpg)