Shelf-life Reduction as an Emerging Problem in Cooked Hams Underlines the Need for Improved Preservation Strategies.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, Volume 55, Issue 10, p.1425-1443 (2015)


bioprotective cultures, Cooked meat, packaging, spoilage


Cooked hams have gained an important position within the delicatessen market. Nowadays, consumers not only demand superior sensory properties but also request low levels of sodium and fat and the absence of conventional chemicals and preservatives used for the increase of the technological yield and shelf-life of the products. As a result, products that apply strict quality certificates or ''clean'' labels become increasingly important. However, such cooked hams suffer from a limited shelf-life. Besides some physicochemical effects, this is mainly due to microbial impact, despite the application of modified-atmosphere-packaging and chilling. Microbial spoilage is mostly due to the metabolic manifestation of lactic acid bacteria and Brochothrix thermosphacta, although Enterobacteriaceae and yeasts may occur too. Several preservation strategies have been developed to prolong the shelf-life of such vulnerable cooked meat products by targeting the microbial communities, with different rates of success. Whereas high-pressure treatments do not always pose a straightforward solution, a promising strategy relates to the use of bioprotective cultures containing lactic acid bacteria. The latter consist of strains that are deliberately added to the ham to outcompete undesirable microorganisms. Spoilage problems seem, however, to be specific for each product and processing line, underlining the importance of tailor-made solutions.