Food Safety Issues/Pre-cooked ham


I bought half of a pre-cooked vacuumed packed ham; when we got home we left it in the car overnight.  The garage temperature overnight was about 80 degrees. Is it still safe to cook and eat?

Hi Mary,

This is a good question which without laboratory analysis of the ham there is no way of knowing for sure if the ham is still safe.

What we do know is that foods that require time and/or temperature control for safety (TCS Food)-- foods such as meat, dairy, seafood, fish, cooked vegetables, etc -- can support the growth of harmful bacteria when left in the Danger Zone - 41 to 135 degrees F - for an extended period of time. If any harmful bacteria were on the ham, then having it at 80 degrees for 8-12 hours is long enough for these bacteria to mulitply to a possible level that could make you ill.  While cooking the ham would kill any of these bacteria, some have the capability of producing a harmful waste product while growing, and this waste product is toxic and not destroyed by cooking.  Thus heating a food that has been temperature abused is not a sure way of rendering it safe to consume.

Now...what are the chances the above scenery took place with your ham?  Who knows?  You could leave a ham in the car 100 times and go ahead and cook and eat it with no consequences.  Then, thinking you can always do it, you prepare the 101st ham and -- BAM -- you become ill.  This is why we recommend not taking a chance and pitch the meat, because you can't see, smell or taste this harmful bacteria or the toxin it may produce.

In the future I'm sure we will have a way of letting us know if a food that happens to be temperature abused is still safe to consume. In the meantime, the recommendation is to not take a chance and 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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