Food Safety Issues/ham


I left a fully cooked black forest ham out of the frig last night.  It didn't look or smell bad so I put it in the frig.  Is it safe to eat?

Hi Leigh,

I wish I could give you a guarantee that the ham is still safe to consume -- but I can't.  And here's why...

Potentially hazardous foods -- foods like meat, poultry, dairy, cooked vegetables, eggs, fish, etc -- require that they be either kept hot (above 135 degrees F) or cold (below 41 degrees F). If cooled down from hot to cold, it needs to be done within 6 hours to ensure a safe product. Bacteria which can cause food borne illness love phf foods that are left in the "Danger Zone" - 41 to 135 degrees F -- as this is the temperature range that they can multiply rapidly.  You can't see, taste or smell these bacteria as they do not give off any signals that they are present.  So smelling or looking at the ham is not sufficient to determine if it is still safe to consume.

I know you are saying...'but it looks and smells okay."  And that's good but not a guarantee of safety.  Unfortunately some bacteria while growing can produce a toxin that is not deactivated by reheating. In other words, just reheating a food that has been temperature abused is not a guarantee that it is safe to consume. While the ham may be perfectly safe to consume, it could also cause harm.

Since you can't tell by taste, sight or smell if a food that should be either kept hot or cold is still safe to consume, the  recommendation is to not take a chance in pitch the ham.



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Carol Schlitt


I can answer questions on home food safety, sanitation and home food preservation.


I am a former Extension educator, nutrition, wellness and food safety, having retired August 1, 2010. I am a food safety instructor for the Illinois Department of Public Health, a ServSafe Instructor/Proctor and have my own company, Safe & Savory Solutions, Inc -

National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (Past President and current Historian), St. Louis Culinary Society.

BS - University of Illinois MS - Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville

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