Verify: After school lunch complaint, can cheese turn ham green?

An Auburndale High School student claims she was served a sandwich with mold on it, but the school district claims the cheese caused the ham to turn green.

AUBURNDALE, Fla. -- Just looking at the picture could make some people lose their appetite. A student at Auburndale High said the school served her a ham sandwich, but the ham was covered with green spots.

The student claims there was mold on it, but the school district said that's not the case.

"The food item was examined and does not appear to have mold,” the district said in a statement. “Moisture from the cheese most likely caused a discoloration on the ham."

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A lot of you on social media aren't buying that explanation, so we wanted to Verify, can cheese cause ham to turn green?

10News reporter Grady Trimble wanted to conduct an experiment of his own. He made four ham and cheese sandwiches, two with mozzarella and two with swiss cheese. He put one of each in the refrigerator, and left one of each on the counter.

In the meantime, he did some research and found an article conveniently titled: Could cheese be the culprit when meat turns green? It was published by the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research, where Dr. Mark Johnson works.

“One of them is Lactobacillus bulgaricus,” he said of a bacteria found in cheese.

He used big words like that, but it's a pretty basic concept. You know how the statue of liberty is made of copper, but it oxidized and turned green? The naturally occurring bacteria in some cheeses can do the same thing to meat and cause it to change color.

“It's safe to eat, but it's just a cosmetic thing,” Dr. Johnson said. “People see green meat and they go, 'Okay, something's wrong with it.'”

Back to Grady’s experiment. After five hours, the ham still looked like ham on all the sandwiches. It didn’t have any green spots.

Dr. Johnson said that could be because he didn't leave them for long enough. It could take two days to a week, but we can Verify that cheese can, in fact, cause ham to turn green.

The same thing can happen to other cured meats, like sausage and corned beef. It's safe to eat, but it might taste a little off. In the case of the sandwich served at Auburndale High, the Department of Health said it will inspect the kitchen at the school next week.

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