Organic Consumers Association

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Lead Fragments in Venison a Hot Topic

As Pennsylvania's rifle deer season approaches, warnings from North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin about consuming hunter-donated ground venison are making news.

According to a study released by the North Dakota Department of Public Health in March, 53 of 95 packages (56 percent) of X-ray examined ground venison donated to food banks showed metal fragments.

Consequently, the North Dakota Department of Health recommended that food pantries not distribute the remaining ground venison in their possession.

In Minnesota, Department of Agriculture tests found lead fragments in 76 of 299 samples (25 percent) of donated venison. As a result, Minnesota officials instructed food pantries to destroy the remaining donated venison to prevent high-risk people such as pregnant women and children under age 7 from consuming the meat.

And in Wisconsin, Division of Health officials found 16 percent of 183 samples of donated venison contained detectable levels of lead. The agency recommended that venison from food pantries not be eaten unless the meat was X-rayed and found free of metal fragments.

Despite these concerns, which are being widely reported in the press, no case of lead poisoning has ever been associated with the consumption of hunter-killed game in Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, or elsewhere, according to the University of Georgia's Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study.

In Pennsylvania, Hunters Sharing the Harvest (HSH, ) has been distributing venison donated by hunters to food banks, soup kitchens, and needy families since 1991.

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