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Foods -- Meat and Poultry

What causes the iridescent color on a ham or cured meat?

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The greenish or yellowish iridescence sometimes observed on the surface of cut cured meats is caused by the way light is refracted from the fat on the surface of the meat. This can be compared to the way a prism separates a beam of light into different colors. This is not an indication of spoilage or a food safety problem. It may also be caused by oxidation. Some of the nitrate-modified iron content of the meat undergoes a chemical change in the presence of light or oxygen and alters the pigmentation of the ham. PREPARED BY: Angela M. Fraser, Ph.D., Associate Professor/Food Safety Specialist, and Carolyn J. Lackey, Ph.D., R.D., L.D.N., Professor/Food and Nutrition Specialist, North Carolina State University (August 2004)

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