BASC, Countryside Alliance and the chocolate

It is now over a week since I pointed out that the statements by BASC and the Countryside Alliance on the relative amounts of lead in chocolate and game meat are incorrect.

Whereas these rash statements may have originally been made in error they remain on the BASC and CA websites:

BASC says ‘Pound for pound there is more lead in chocolate than game

CA saysWeight for weight, there is more lead in chocolate than any game meat found in the UK. ‘

Neither of these statements is true.  They may have originally been made in error but BASC and CA have had over a week to change these statements and correct them.  They haven’t yet done so.

After 6pm today I will start, perhaps with a little help from some readers of this blog, to correct the misinformation in these statements to interested parties.


Update added at 1720: The Countryside Alliance has changed the words above to the following:

‘Weight for weight, there is more lead in some forms of chocolate than any game meat found in the UK.’

Progress, but still not correct.  Watch this space for further updates.

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24 Replies to “BASC, Countryside Alliance and the chocolate”

  1. Good morning Mark
    Both of your links conect to the CA statement. You may wish to correct the BASC one.
    The CA statement is also disingenuous with respect to the impacts of lead on wildfowl, claiming the WWT study shows nothing that is not already known. This rather conveniently disregards the fact that it presents evidence that despite restrictions on use of lead shot having been in place for years, mortality from lead poisoning has not declined and many live birds sampled showed elevated blood lead levels; prima facie evidence that the restrictions are widely ignored.

  2. Can't wait to see how they arrived at these conclusions, maybe it was a real countryman that told them? They always know more than the science on almost any subject. I'm guessing Cadburry's are poised to withdraw their products from shelves with imediate effect.

  3. No Mark, you are still wrong. Read the report, and tell the truth. You are the one who has had over one week to read this, now get your facts straight before you start getting loud.

    If you are so concerned, why haven't you rasied this with the organisations directly? You know my contact details, you know where to find me, but you haven't bothered. That says a lot...

    1. David, I have looked at your link and the contents are much too scientific for me as a layman. I did pick up that a lot of game lead levels were excluded from the final figures because they were so high and would skew the end result but I still cant see where confectionery is higher than game. As this is a blog for the rest of us and not just Mark it would be useful to know where you think he is misleading us.

    2. David and Mark (or anyone else),

      My apologies - I'm reading the report in somewhat of a rush - so please help explain the findings to me! From what I can see:

      The report states that the mean lead content in 'game mammals' is 966 micrograms/kg and the mean content for 'game birds' is 267 (both Table 8; page 22).

      The mean lead content in chocolate is 55 micrograms per kg (Table 12; page 27).

      Can this be taken at face value that 'game mammals and birds', on average, contain significantly more lead than chocolate? As someone who loves tucking into rabbit, pheasant, pigeon and venison at any opportunity - I'd be really interested to know your views.

    3. David - as you well know, I have raised it with you directly on Twitter. We had a lively conversation where I challenged you to correct this misleading statement. And I did raise it directly with BASC in advance of writing my blog. In any case, it is your responsibility to get your facts right and to correct them if you have got them wrong.

  4. Is this why chocolate bars are getting smaller compared to when I was a youngster? All that lead making them weigh heavier!

  5. I have little respect for either organisation but I am still shocked by the brazenness and irresponsibility of this misinformation.

  6. No more wakame for me!

    I'll stick to Grouse, which happily is £15.00/litre in Tesco today, containing as much as 0.000012g, or 0.0000003g in a standard measure.

  7. This is my first comment and I won’t make a habit of commenting, but I believe this is important: I think Mark has misread Table 8 of the 2012 EFSA report.

    Mark’s statement earlier on this blog that, according to the EFSA report, “gamebird meat is around 600 ppb of lead” is, I believe mistakenly the figure for the number of samples tested (596) rather than the mean ug/kg figure for lead occurrence. According to Table 8 of the EFSA report referred to, the mean ug/kg figure aggregated for gamebirds at 267ug/kg.

    The figure of 267ug/kg above is based on 80 quail samples and 426 pheasant samples, with the remainder being 90 samples of partridge/ptarmigan (596 samples). The samples of partridge and ptarmigan were clearly low in number, hence the reference to the footnote below the table:

    “The 95th percentile is only shown for food categories with 20 or more samples but should be interpreted with caution if the sample number is less than 60”.

    The mean ug/kg of 267ug/kg shown for gamebird meat in the EFSA report referred to is lower than a number of things in the report, including, infamously, chocolate cream, peppermint, seaweed, boletus mushrooms, paprika powder, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, mixed herbs and curry powder among other things. And unless I’m very much mistaken, it is also not 600 ppb.

    To clarify, I am not a scientist and I’m naturally prepared to admit if I have misread the table myself, but I would like Mark to confirm where he got his figure of 600 ppb from the EFSA report’s Table 8 referred to since, quite simply, it does not appear under the gamebird meat section. The only way you can get close(ish) using the ug/kg figures is if you average the mean figure (344ug/kg) and the 95th percentile figure (982ug/kg), ie (344 + 982)/2 = 663. Surely that cannot be the figure Mark’s referring to though?

    1. Alastair - you're right, so I've changed it. Thank you. As I wrote at the time 'I've given you the references so check it yourself and if I have interpreted it wrongly then you can correct me'. You are the first person to spot it and I've corrected it straight away. Sorry about that, an honest, and rapidly corrected mistake.

    2. Surely the pertinent headline figure is the actual mean result for Pheasant at 344. It it possible that the quail data may not represent wild shot birds. It may include birds bred for meat, such farmed birds' lead content will not have arisen from being blasted by a shotgun.

      I'm not sure what chocolate cream is, can anybody enlighten me? I do know that the average size of a pheasant portion will be a lot bigger than the average spice portion so total lead intake from such sources is much less relevant.

  8. Looks like Mark might be out-of-office at the moment here's the full link to the BASC statement:

  9. This statement by BASC is complete nonsense, misses the point and is simply very bad PR spin. Chocolate and other foods have natural levels of lead and yes, some foods higher than others. A Pheasant presumably can have a lot of lead shot in it, very little or none at all depending on how it was killed and the skill of the shooter.
    If you swallow a lead pellet by mistake and it sits in your stomach you're going to be extremely highly exposed!
    As an aside but relevant, I have just finished reading the Norfolk Crane's Story. In it John Buxton records how a pair of Cranes produced infertile eggs each year for 10 years! When the male died and a post-mortem they found lead shot which had made it infertile.

  10. Let's go back to the original quotes:

    "Pound for pound there is more lead in chocolate than game"
    "Weight for weight, there is more lead in chocolate than any game meat found in the UK"

    As far as I can tell from the 2012 report, these quotes rely on one row in Table 12 ('chocolate, cream'; not any other form of chocolate) with a tiny sample size (7). This is spectacular cherry-picking of data. Inspection of Table 8 (meats and offals) suggests that a more honest but less convenient quote might have been "Pound for pound there is an order of magnitude more lead in pheasant (and two orders more in wild boar) than almost any other meat. " It's also worth noting that Figure 4 on p11 of the report and the associated text shows that game meats formed a large proportion of those samples that were rejected from the main data set that was subject to analysis due to exceptional levels of lead contamination from water pipes, paint, industrial pollution and ... lead ammunition.

  11. From the 2012 EFSA report: "Particularly high results were recorded for wild boar meat and pheasant meat, presumably associated with the use of lead ammunition."

    That could be true - but it's a presumption and there are there are other possible causes. Wild boar lead content could be related to the amount of soil the beast ingests while rooting; could be true also for game which feeds over land habitually used for shooting. The EFSA survey is just a survey - interesting, but it can't shine any light on cause and effect, as there are no controls. And - very little of the data came from the UK.

    Right-on chefs should be inviting swept-up foodies to live dangerously and order wild boar sausages seasoned with thyme, with a side-order of ceps seasoned with wakame flakes - this could compete with fugu, wouldn't take years of training and could provide crematoria with a useful income stream, while sparing church roofs.

  12. Mark if Gert's one is interesting this should raise a few eyebrows,
    In October 2009 a falconer who keeps Goshawks and Golden Eagles in Kent called Roy Lupton, went to Perthshire (I think) to fly one of his pet Golden Eagle (not sure why you would), the pet Golden Eagle was promptly mobbed by a wild Golden Eagle, he sought relevant permission to remove the bird for treatment in his aviaries in Kent. It was well onto the way to recovery and sought permission to sat' tag it. At which point DEFRA and the RSPCA raided his buildings, and threatned prosecution, prosecution was later dropped (i assume because he had permission to have the bird), anyway the RSPCA put the bird in wildlife centre called Mallydam wildlife centre, the birds health detoriated and died (remember it was fit for release), in June 2010 the bird was autopsy and the 2 parts of the result were interesting a: not being provided with good practises in form of animal husbandry. (that's the RSPAC not Roy Lupton) b: The level of digested lead in it's blood stream and the animals immune system inability to handle it, due to the bird having been moved would've caused stress etc.
    The last bit was what interested me, the fact a Golden Eagle was found with lead in it's system, would that have come from "natural source" or from scrounging dead birds or bird that had been shot but not killed outright?


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