Is there any risk of illness from eating ham?

Yes. Trichinella spiralis, a parasite found on pork, can cause a disease known as trichinosis. The good news is that all processed hams must conform to USDA guidelines to kill trichinae. Caution is required if you purchase an unprocessed ham from a farmer or local market.
A  bacteria of particular concern is Clostridium botulinum, better known by the disease it causes: botulism. Canned hams are processed to kill all spoilage bacteria, including Clostridium botulinum. The nitrites used to process cured hams inhibit the growth of Clostridium botulinum.
Another bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus (better known as staph) is destroyed by cooking and processing but can be reintroduced to ham as a result of mishandling. The bacteria can then produce a toxin that isn't destroyed by further cooking. Dry curing may or may not destroy staph, but the high salt content on the ham's exterior tends to inhibit these bacteria. Nevertheless, the moister interior allows staph to multiply after the ham is sliced.
In addition, mold can grow on hams during curing and drying. Even high salt content and low temperatures don't necessarily inhibit their growth. Most of these molds are harmless. Many are even part and parcel of curing. However, a few can produce toxins capable of migrating into the ham. Moldy sections should be excised from the ham.
USDA Fact Sheets "Ham and Food Safety"

I bought a beautiful packaged Spiral Ham that expires in a few days. When I cut the plastic wrapper off to prepare for the oven. The Ham was covered in a goupy geletin which I rinsed off. No odor whatsoever. It looks fine but I am alarmed by the goupyness. Does this matter ?

Thank you in advance.


Hi Cindy,

I checked with one of our Advisory Board memebers, Dr. Catherine Cutter and she said,

"Gelatin is what is formed when heat denatures collagen, a principle component of meat.  In hams, there is quite a bit of collagen and since we cook hams for a long time, the gelatin will emerge over time as the collagen is heated. Then when you cool it, it gels (kind of like how Jello works--heat is needed to get it into solution and then it firms up when it's cooled)."

We hope this helps!  Thanks for your question!



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