We've known for a long time that lead is toxic to mammals and birds.  That's why its use has been reduced in all sorts of ways over our lifetimes - paints, petrol, fishing weights, shotgun pellets used in wetlands etc. 

The recent European Food Safety Authority report suggested that lead ingested through eating game meat could be more of an issue for some categories of consumer than had hitherto been thought although average exposures to lead in food don't seem that much of an issue.

A few days ago another scientific study was published which looked at lead levels in game meat on sale to the public in the UK.  There is no EU Maximum Level set for lead in game meat (which seems like an oversight to me) but there are levels set for more traditional (or maybe less traditional) meats such as beef, lamb, chicken and pork. 

This study found that a high proportion of the cooked game meat (with the 'intact' lead shot removed after cooking) exceeded the Maximum Levels that would apply to those other meats.  In other words supermarkets couldn't sell, for example, chickens, with the lead levels found in partridges.  The study actually showed that around 60% of partridge meat samples exceeded the Maximum Levels for chickens, beef, lamb etc.  A few samples even exceeded those Maximum Levels by a factor of 100 - ie were 100 times as high as the Maximum Levels for other meats.

Now rather few of us sit down to a feast of partidge every night and every lunch time so these high levels need to be seen in that context.  However, it is known that children are more susceptible to the effects of lead on their bodies than the old and there may be some categories of consumer (gamekeepers perhaps) who eat very much higher levels of game meat than the average man on the Clapham omnibus

I've always thought that wild shot pigeons, partridge, pheasant, venision etc were probably good things to eat.  They had, I mused, at least had a natural life and a fairly rapid end to it.  I'll be a little more cautious now.  And I wonder how cautious others should be about promoting the consumption of game meat shot with lead ammunition?  It's a good job there are non-toxic alternatives available.

  • My guess is Mark that those most at risk from eating game high in lead know the risk and consider it relatively small,perhaps even thinking with some justification that in 10 years time the alternatives will have been found a worse hazard.As for instance dairy products seem to go through a cycle of being good for you and one year later any dairy product likely to kill you next week,just look at how millions were to be killed with new CJD and as tragic as it is for those people and family's affected the number is perhaps 250,that estimate of millions looks rather overestimated.