Lead Week, 5 #Pbweeekmia


This is Lead Week on this blog.


iceland-2-copy40 grouse were purchased (in packs of two each to serve two people, with one grouse per person) from Iceland stores in September 2015. Grouse were purchased from three separate stores in England. All were in boxes indicating that they were supplied by ‘Kezie’ and all had a use by date of 31/10/16. Each individual grouse was in a sealed plastic bag and the cooking instructions were to boil the grouse in the bag, and then fry. All individual grouse were boiled in the bag, but birds were not subsequently fried.


Some grouse contained material (e.g. liver, heart and other tissues) in the body cavity and others had empty body cavities. After cooking and cooling, all obviously edible flesh was removed from the grouse manually. This was primarily muscle tissue from the breasts and legs, but also heart and liver tissue when these were present and intact (only a few samples), as recipes suggest that these can be eaten. All damaged or unidentifiable material from the body cavity, and anything other than hearts and livers, was discarded. All edible tissue was felt for the presence of shot as it was picked off the carcass, and any shot found were removed and stored separately. All edible material from each grouse was stored in separate sealed plastic bags.

Edible cooked material was weighed with samples from individual grouse ranging from 93-196g (mean of 151.3g). Shot was found in 35% (14 of 40) of samples.

Disposable gloves were worn during preparation and all surfaces thoroughly cleaned between preparing each sample.

Samples were then X-rayed to locate any lead shot not removed by initial examination of the cooked meat.  Shot were found in an additional 17% of samples (7 of 40) which means that lead shot were found in 52% of samples after manual searching and X-raying.  These shot were also removed before analysis.

The meat samples were then dried, milled/homogenised individually, and then sub-samples of meat (1g) were taken from each of the 40 samples. These sub-samples were digested in acid-cleaned pure-quartz test tubes using ultra-pure nitric acid and hydrogen peroxide and then analysed for their lead levels using ICP-OES (inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy). Blanks (ultra pure water) and certified reference material (CRM 8414 – bovine muscle) were analysed alongside the grouse for quality control/assurance purposes. All grouse samples generated lead data above the limit of detection for the instrument (equivalent to 0.047 mg/kg w.w.) and data obtained for the bovine muscle CRM demonstrated the accuracy of the technique (CRM certified lead level = 0.38 +/- 0.24; data obtained during experiments = 0.31 +/- 0.08 (n = 4)).

Red Grouse carcasses 2- Copy-1
Red Grouse carcasses bought from a game dealer/butcher not from Iceland.



Website Pin Facebook Twitter Myspace Friendfeed Technorati del.icio.us Digg Google StumbleUpon Premium Responsive

Get email notifications of new blog posts

Registration confirmation will be emailed to you.

20 Replies to “Lead Week, 5 #Pbweeekmia”

  1. Come on..... the suspense is killing us!

    (Iceland 'food you can trust', how ironic!)

    Any idea yet which journal this might be published in?

    1. Dr Parry - no need to wait. Have a look at the comprehensive scientific report written by the European Food Standard Agency (EFSA) four years ago. 58 pages of unbiased analysis by human health scientists reviewing our widely eaten foods, including the most commonly eaten game bird: Pheasant - 344 ug/kg

      Some are higher, such as:
      Chocolate, cream - 406 ug/kg
      Peppermint tea - 442 ug/kg
      Sea salt - 451 ug/kg
      Thyme, herb - 1,110 ug/kg

      Some are lower:
      Apples - 13 ug/kg
      Toffee - 44 ug/kg
      Liquorice - 217 ug/kg
      Oyster - 225 ug/kg


      1. Andrew - as you should know, that's very partial and misleading.

        Why didn't you quote this bit:

        'The 144,206 lead occurrence results retained in the current study were sorted into the four different levels of the FoodEx 1 classification system. More than half of the foods tested had levels of lead at less than detection or quantification limits. The mean lead levels varied between 0.3 μg/kg for infant follow-on formulae to 4,300 μg/kg for dietetic products with an overall median across all categories of 21.4 μg/kg. Eighty-two food categories out of 734 at FoodEx level 3 with quantified discrete results had mean lead levels exceeding 100 μg/kg. The highest individual sample maximum of 232,000 μg/kg was found in game meat, followed by 155,000 μg/kg in seaweed, 117,000 μg/kg in edible offal from game animals and 59,900 μg/kg in dietary supplements.'

        What is the impact on your daily dietary lead intake of switching one meal a week from non-game meat to game meat? Please look at Green & Pain 2012 for the relevant science. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691512006126

        But I'm glad that you are trying to pay attention, Andrew. What do you think the average lead levels in Iceland Red Grouse were?

        PS and which sources of dietary lead would be removed if we switched to non-toxic lead ammunition?

      2. Andrew, It is not the pheasant that is the problem, it is the lead. Presumably the analysis of that would be - 1kg/kg.

      3. Just two questions in response (having read the EFSA report, which is very good):
        1) do you always cherry-pick results to support the conclusion you want to arrive at?
        2) if I inject some dioxin into a carcase, will you eat that too?

        1. M parry - good questions, I wonder what Andrew will say.

          I am now drinking a cup of peppermint tea despite the GWCT's spin doctor's warning.

          If you go to the EFSA report you will find that the lead levels in dry peppermint tea (p17) are, as Andrew cherry-picked, 442ug/kg. But that is for the dry peppermint tea leaves - I haven't eaten any tea leaves in drinking this tea. I don't know, and I'm sure that Andrew doesn't know either, how much lead gets into my drink through the tea bag. Perhaps he could run off and find out, please. I think it will be rather little.

          In any case, my peppermint teabag is one of 40 in this packet which weighs 60g - that's 1.5g/teabag. the portion size for meat would be around 150g. So the dosage is quite different - but what's a couple of orders of magnitude difference to the GWCT?

          And Andrew, if you are eating 150g of sea salt a day it won't be the lead that you will be most worried about.

        2. Glad you found the EFSA report helpful. I offered no conclusion (the EFSA does that bit for us) I did point out that the EFSA looked at lead in our food years ago. The list is surprisingly wide and long. The most commonly eaten game bird, the pheasant, is in it that list. Some foods contain more lead than pheasants and some less. No cherry-picking of EFSA data at this end. Best, Andrew

          1. Andrew - fail! Massive fail!

            You should be red with embarrassment.

            You did cherry-pick. Anyone and everyone can see that you did.

            And the next time you eat the tea from two and a half packets of peppermint tea please may I watch? Or the day when you eat either 150g of thyme or of sea salt. It must be a common occurrence chez Gilruth or you would not have mentioned it.

            And that Green and Pain paper? Read it yet?

            Are you planning a TWCG blog on lead? I look forward to it.

            From M5 services in Somerset - very wet here.

  2. Has there been any official response to these findings from Iceland Mark? In light of this evidence, surely the responsible action would be to withdraw the offending grouse from their shelves. Of course this assumes a duty of care towards customers is uppermost to the company. Inaction would almost certainly damage the phrase 'food you can trust'.

  3. If they want the clean red grouse they should look to the past. One moor contained 1000 snares which seems to be the easiest way to catch them but also Larson traps can be used as the birds are so territorial. To think these traps were once used to catch crows on these moors and now they are going to be used to catch red grouse!

    1. If the only way to have 'clean' grouse is by using cruel traps, then please don't buy and eat them.
      Surely traps are completely unethical.

        1. I see, thank you, Bob.

          However, since the subject has been raised, traps exist and are cruel for whichever species they catch.

          Is shooting birds and mammals not enough?

  4. By law should there not be warning stating "May contain traces of lead in various quantities".
    We have to have nut warnings for allergy sufferers if there's the slightest risk.

  5. In view of the outrage in the news about the possibility of children chewing paint with traces of lead in it in a playground area, you would think the same outrage would happen about lead being served up on a plate.

    Mark, How can the lead issue be separated from the grouse issue. In this subject it is the lead that is the offending item not the grouse. The lead issue is a much wider spread matter.

    1. Bob - simple, Defra can act on what it signed up to in Ecuador in Autumn 2014 and move to ban lead ammunition.

      The results that you will see in this blog are from analysed Red Grouse (they were the cheapest game on sale!) but the same findings probably apply to a large extent to Pheasant, partridges etc.

  6. What is more more remarkable in my view is that no-one else seems to be checking this. Rory Stewart advised me that it is the responsibility of the local authority and I am awaiting his reply from our local authority as to what they check. This was Rory's reply re lead and flubendazole:-

    Regarding flubendazole: the monitoring of food is the responsibility
    of local authorities - environmental health in this instance. They
    probably instruct game dealers to warn customers that game birds may
    contain shot. It is for the FSA to monitor enforcement authorities
    though, as this is a food safety issue and not a labelling/standards


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.