Lead Week 6, #Pbweekmia

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It’s not that we didn’t tell Iceland what they were doing…

Here’s an extract from a blog I wrote about Iceland’s decision to sell Red Grouse in its stores back in July this year, soon after the announcement was made.

Iceland will have thought long and hard about this business decision of course, and it couldn’t have been made because the boss of Iceland, Malcolm Walker, is apparently keen on shooting. It couldn’t possibly be that Malcolm Walker is selling frozen grouse in his stores because he is a shooter and Paul Dacre is mentioning it in his paper because he is a shooter, could it?  Maybe Iceland got a job lot of unsold grouse from M&S who decided last year, very wisely, not to sell grouse meat in its stores because it couldn’t vouch for the sustainability of their production.‘ Here’s the link to the full blog.

 

A few days later I posted another blog on this subject – here is a long extract:

‘Last week, Iceland foods (prop Malcom Walker – a keen shooter) was reported in the Daily Mail (editor Paul Dacre – grouse moor owner) as being about to stock frozen grouse in their stores.

This blog posted the following questions to Iceland (and emailed them to Mr Walker):

Iceland says: All Iceland brand products are clearly labelled on the back of our packs with a full and honest list of our ingredients, and information on their nutritional value.

This blog asks: will Iceland label their Red Grouse as probably having, on average, ten times the lead levels (a poison) as would be legally allowed for other meats?  Will Iceland add a food safety warning in line with Food Standards Agency Advice, which we assume Iceland are aware of, but in case they are not it goes as follows, ‘The Food Standards Agency is advising people that eating lead-shot game on a frequent basis can expose them to potentially harmful levels of lead. The FSA’s advice is that frequent consumers of lead-shot game should eat less of this type of meat.’?

Iceland says: All Iceland brand products are sourced from approved suppliers at approved sites.

This blog asks: will Iceland name the shooting estates from which their Red Grouse are sourced so that the public can make up their own minds on their quality? How are their game suppliers approved and by whom?

Iceland says: Iceland respects the environment.  Our efforts to reduce our environmental impact are co-ordinated by a cross-functional team, working closely with external partners including the Carbon Trust, WRAP and the British Retail Consortium Environmental Policy Action Group.

This blog asks: did Iceland not read the EMBER study or the remarks from the Climate Change Committee’s report of last week?  How does selling Red Grouse add up to respecting the environment?

 

Iceland have posted an ‘information’ sheet on their website which demonstrates either that they don’t know much or that they don’t care much – it’s difficult to tell which. The ‘information’ note is very carefully worded so let me pick apart a few bits of it.

Iceland is keen to talk about ‘game’ and not lead. The point is, or at least one point is, that the game that they are selling would be expected to have around 10 times the lead levels that would be legal for other forms of meat (beef, pork, chicken etc). Strangely, no lead limits are set for game meat – an administrative peculiarity. And so when Iceland say:

Game shot with lead ammunition has not been proven medically to have any adverse health effect.’ they would not be able to say ‘Meat with as much lead in it as the game that we will be selling has not been proven medically to have any adverse health effect‘ (assuming, as is overwhelmingly likely (but I don’t know for sure) that the grouse they are selling were shot with lead shot) because lead is a proven poison. That’s why the FSA updated their advice on eating game meat.  Iceland’s statement is a bit like saying ‘People called Murray have not been proven to be dangerous drivers when drunk’; no, probably not, but they still are, aren’t they?

 
Iceland say, ‘There is no documented medical advice that moderate consumption of shot game is in any way detrimental to health.‘.  My understanding is that there is no level of lead in food that won’t have some impact on health. Obviously the impacts are small the less you eat. But pregnant women and young children are particularly susceptible to lead which is why the Food Standards Agency say their advice ‘is especially important for vulnerable groups such as toddlers and children, pregnant women and women trying for a baby, as exposure to lead can harm the developing brain and nervous system.’.  that’s why Mums go to Iceland and don’t buy lead-shot game to feed to their children perhaps?
 
 
A few meals of high-lead game meat certainly won’t kill you, but Iceland’s position on this subject seems rather carefully worded to avoid mentioning the impacts of lead on pregnant women and young children. It does not strike me as being a very full and open description of the subject, but rather a very carefully worded justification for selling game.  Is Iceland thinking of their customers’ health or the health of their bank balance? Although, they are selling so little grouse that it could be that they are thinking more about making a point than making money. What point might that be?
 
Iceland ‘…do not condone illegal activities and would not source from any establishment which was  involved in any illegal activity‘ which is good to hear. How, I wonder, do they ensure that the estates supplying them with grouse are not involved in killing Hen Harriers, Peregrines and Golden Eagles? Maybe they could tell us the names of the estates supplying their grouse and then raptor experts could help them out. Remember, remarkably, there are precious few birds of prey on grouse moors.
 
Iceland say ‘We do not source from moorlands with unethical or questionable practices.’ which sounds very good.  Which moorlands does Iceland use? What steps do they take to audit their practices? How does Iceland react to the EMBER study which suggests that burning of blanket bogs is a questionable practice – does Iceland audit the muirburn practices of their suppliers?
 
Iceland says ‘If moorland were not managed, there would be no grouse.‘ which is just arrant nonsense, but is the type of rubbish that one often hears from the shooting community.  How did the Red Grouse evolve into a UK race of the very widespread Willow Grouse without gamekeepers, I wonder? And how does the Willow Grouse occupy habitat all around the world at our latitude without its habitat being managed in the ways that we do in the UK?
 
So, Iceland don’t impress me with their approach or their knowledge. If this is the level of understanding that food retailers have about their products then I am very concerned. Iceland clearly don’t need to sell grouse meat – it seems to me that they are very keen to do so though.  Link to original blog.
And the guys at Raptor Persecution Scotland, a must-read blog, were also onto this with their usual speed, tenacity and common sense 10 July 2015, 13 July 2015, 22 September 2015,
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6 Replies to “Lead Week 6, #Pbweekmia”

  1. What is interesting about their labelling (shown in photo in 5) is that they mention that the grouse could contain lead shot.
    Most people would assume that the lead shot could be picked out and therefore not ingested. As you have shown, this is not the case. Maybe 'will contain lead fragments' would be more honest.
    Also, how can you be sure that the wild duck that you have shot with steel for the pot, hasn't been eating lead? Very interested to hear if any studies have been done on this.

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    1. This is what Iceland told me on Facebook on 24th September 2015:

      ''..the Supplier takes all necessary precautions to make sure that all shot is removed''

      I'm not sure it's possible to ''ensure that all shot is removed'', is it?

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      1. Messi - did they really tell you that? You should look at blog #8 in this series which is now published.

        So you wouldn't expect that there would be any points on 1, 2, 3 or 4 lead shot on this graph when it is populated with data tomorrow morning at 6am? We'll see.

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        1. Yes, that's what they said in a post on Facebook in response to several inquiries (I have a screen shot of their post).

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          1. Messi - well they weren't very good at it then: 28 shot were removed from these 40 birds (18 from the original search and another 10 after X-ray)..

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