April 8, 2009

Making ready-to-eat ham safe for all

Ready-to-eat ham can be eaten cold, but is best reheated for those at risk of a foodborne illness, a U.S. agency advises.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, says those with weakened immune systems -- the very young, the elderly, people with HIV or undergoing chemotherapy -- are at higher risk of foodborne illness. For these, ready-to-eat ham should be reheated until steaming hot or 165 degrees F.

FSIS officials recommend heating only those slices needed and not the entire ham as heating can dry the meat. If reheating the entire ham, cover the ham with heavy aluminum foil and set the oven no lower than 325 degrees F.

Reheat the ham to an internal temperature of 140 F as measured with a food thermometer for about 10 minutes per pound, a statement from the FSIS says.

Ham, the meat from the hind leg of a hog, is available in many forms. Ready-to-eat and canned hams are cooked at an establishment and ready-to-eat. Fresh hams must be cooked by the consumer before eating and have safe handling instructions on the label.