Following Ian Botham’s car crash radio interview yesterday it is worth considering the whole business of donating shot game to the poor and needy. Sounds like a good idea but things are often more complicated than they seem. We can learn from US experience.
On the website of the Country Food Trust, the Chief Executive of Fareshare Southwest (there seem to be lots of local versions of Fareshare), Jacqui Reeves, says ‘Supporting the Country Food Trust is key to our continuation and our future and to the Society as a whole‘ which seems a pretty big claim.
Fareshare will no doubt be aware of the health impacts of lead-shot game, but if not then here are some references and quotes (with some phrases highlighted in red and links to the full reports and scientific papers):
‘Research findings have heightened public health concern regarding the hazards of low dose lead exposure to adults and children. In adults, studies have established the potential for hypertension, decrements in renal function, subtle decline in cognitive function, and adverse reproductive outcome at blood lead levels less than 25 micrograms per deciliter (μg/dL). The developing nervous system of the fetus and young child is particularly sensitive to the deleterious effects of lead, with adverse impacts on physical growth and neurocognitive development demonstrable at blood lead levels less than 10μg/dL. No low dose threshold for these adverse developmental effects has been discerned. Epidemiological studies, and risk assessment modeling presented in this paper, indicate that regular consumption of game meat harvested with lead ammunition and contaminated with lead residues may cause relatively substantial increases in blood lead compared to background level s, particularly in children. Because lead -free ammunition is an available substitute, this risk is amenable to the public health strategy of primary prevention.‘ KOSNETT, M. J. 2009. Health effects of low dose lead exposure in adults and children, and preventable risk posed by the consumption of game meat harvested with lead ammunition. In R. T. Watson, M. Fuller, M. Pokras, and W. G. Hunt (Eds.). Ingestion of Lead from Spent Ammunition: Implications for Wildlife and Humans. The Peregrine Fund, Boise, Idaho, USA. DOI 10.4080/ilsa.2009.010′
‘We studied randomly selected ground venison packages donated to the Community Action Food Centers of North Dakota by the Hunters For The Hungry Association. These packages were studied by high resolution computerized tomography imaging and x-ray fluoroscopy for qualitative detection of metal fragments. Quantitative measurements of lead levels in both randomly selected and fluoroscopic image guided site-specific subsamples from packages were performed. This study documented a health risk from lead exposure to humans consuming venison.’ CORNATZER, W. E., E. F. FOGARTY, AND E. W. CORNATZER. 2009. Qualitative and quantitative detection of lead bullet fragments in random venison packages donated to the Community Action Food Centers of North Dakota, 2007. In R. T. Watson, M. Fuller, M. Pokras, and W. G. Hunt (Eds.). Ingestion of Lead from Spent Ammunition: Implications for Wildlife and Humans. The Peregrine Fund, Boise, Idaho, USA. DOI 10.4080/ilsa.2009.0111
‘The FSA’s advice since 2012 is that frequent consumers of lead-shot game should eat less of this type of meat. Eating lead-shot game on a frequent basis can expose consumers to potentially harmful levels of lead.‘ Food Standards Agency website.
‘There is no agreed safe level for lead intake. Independent scientific expert groups across the European Union advise that exposure to lead should be reduced as far as possible.‘ Food Standards Agency website.
‘Can lead shot and bullet fragments be present in game meat at levels enough to cause significant health risks to children and adult consumers, depending on the amount of game they consume?
Yes, almost certainly. In the order of 10,000 children are growing up in households where they could regularly be eating sufficient game shot with lead ammunition to potentially cause them neurodevelop mental harm. Tens of thousands of adults, including pregnant women and their unborn, are also exposed to additional lead by eating game as part of their normal diet lead exposure, and this could potentially cause them a range of low level but nonetheless harmful health effects.’ Report by Lead Ammunition Group to Defra and FSA, June 2015.
‘Are safer alternatives to lead ammunition available that would remove all the problems in one go? Yes, there is experience from other countries where the change has already been made. There are issues to sort out and time would be needed for any phase out/phase in – and it would be controversial and resisted to start with – but changes could be made quite quickly and at relatively low cost with obvious benefits to wildlife, human health, the image and reputation of shooting sports, secure game markets, and a new platform for dialogue to solve other conservation and land-use issues. Such positive benefits are already apparent in countries that have already made the change to non-lead ammunition.‘ Report by Lead Ammunition Group to Defra and FSA, June 2015.
‘What are the options for dealing with the human health problems? The only way to guarantee the mitigation of human health problems arising from consuming meat from animals shot with lead ammunition is to replace it with non-toxic alternatives. There is as yet no convincing evidence that options short of replacement of lead ammunition will address known risks to human health and especially child health.‘ Report by Lead Ammunition Group to Defra and FSA, June 2015.
So, Fareshare, have you:
- read and understood the science of health risks to people eating lead-shot game (especially small game (birds, rabbits etc rather than deer) like Pheasants?
- asked your suppliers whether they have tested the lead levels in the meat that they are supplying to you in Pheasant casseroles? (NB the Country Food Trust spent £331 in 2016 on lead testing – enough to test about 10-20 samples, compared with £104,000 on staff costs and £28,000 on consultancy).
- asked your suppliers to supply products which were killed with non-toxic ammunition instead of lead?
- recorded, or do others, the number of game-based meals supplied to individual recipients of these meals in order to measure or regulate dose?