Fareshare – have you done due diligence on game meat?

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.

The Country Food Trust is donating meals containing shot game to Fareshare and this seems to be a major outlet for the pheasant country casseroles that Ian Botham was bragging about yesterday.

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?


More on this later.

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13 Replies to “Fareshare – have you done due diligence on game meat?”

  1. Mark,
    From the Fareshare website. "Our charity members can be confident that the food they receive from us is safe for even the most vulnerable person to eat".

    1. Dave - sounds good. Is it lead-free? Good for them if they have insisted on this - not so good if they haven't. But the suppliers should be thinking about this.

  2. I wonder if Botham et al are campaigning to end the poverty, low wages, welfare system changes and other factors causing folk to be referred to food banks? Always go to the source of the problem I'd say... rather than rear a few million chicks to then shoot...
    Maybe he is...

    1. Vicki - thank you - I agree. It's almost as if it's just a PR exercise for shooting (with lead) isn't it?

  3. Beyond the problem identified by Vicki above responsibility lies entirely with Fareshare. Most (all?) of the problems associated with lead are longer term issues and for someone struggling to feed their family those longer term issues are unlikely to be a the front of their minds. Consequently, Fareshare must surely have to think extremely carefully about the risk they may be asking people, pregnant mothers and parents of young children in particular, to take if supplying these meals.
    You may well argue that these meals are likely (?) to be a one off for each family involved - or perhaps possibly only taken on an annual basis - and as such the risks are virtually non-existent or, at worst, minimal. However, I would argue that it does not matter and this still remains a cynical attempt to whitewash a "sport" that many people have issues with and, worst of all, using vulnerable people to do so.

  4. There have been various tweets flying about, to do with lead in food that may be donated to poorer members of our society.
    I have thrown my two penny-worth in the ring too.
    It is difficult to get to the point in so few characters, but I think I have got across that I have no beef with Botham (pun intended) himself, if he wishes to donate food to people. Sure, I do not approve of shooting but we will only get to where we want to be by taking (sometimes) small steps. One step will be to ban lead shot.
    DGS et al, can come later, yes it will, but as I say, steps.......

  5. The idea of providing food to those lacking it seems admirable on the surface, yet there are a few elements to this that give pause... As someone noted, the foundational causes of poverty are not addressed when offering charity, but aside from that, the idea of 'buy one, and we'll give away one to the needy.' seems to have a marketing element deeply imbedded. Any food being sold or given for free should be tested for lead. Period. It seems game meat has somehow been able to operate outside the usual meat marketing regulations. People's health must be the paramount consideration, especially children and pregnant women. As you noted above, studies demonstrate there are NO 'safe' levels of exposure to lead. Of course, perhaps there has been due diligence and this meat was shot only with lead-free ammunition. The public deserves to be fully informed of measures taken to ensure this 'helping-hand' is not a toxic one.

  6. A semi-professional pigeon shooter of my acquaintance told me the other day that he always used to use lead shot when shooting pigeons for the human-consumption market.
    However, the bottom has fallen out of that market recently and he now sells his pigeons to a company supplying them as food for captive-reared falcons (I assume mainly peregrines and the like for the middle eastern falconry trade).
    The irony is that he has now been required to use non-toxic shot 'because lead will poison the birds'!

    1. Similarly, many pest controllers supply rabbits to zoos/wildlife parks for the tigers, lions, snakes etc but it's generally recognised that, if lead shot has been used, only head shot animals are acceptable for feeding to the animals.

  7. There is something I find deeply worrying about people willing to dump lead contaminated food on the most vulnerable in society, in particular the children of the poor. Why don't they eat this food themselves?

    It stinks of eugenics or some other abhorrent aspect of right wing nastiness to me.

  8. People who campaigned for border controls upset by border controls

    Man who leads campaign against charities upset by criticism of charity

    It's a confusing world


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