According to a British study devoted to pheasants, the quantity of hunting lead contained in game birds would be higher than health standards.
Game bird enthusiasts should be wary of the amount of lead the animal contains, undetectable to the average foodie but well above health standards, according to a UK study of pheasants.
“While lead cartridges continue to be used for hunting, people who eat pheasant or such game birds are likely consuming large numbers of tiny lead fragments.“, says Professor Rhys Green, from the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge, quoted in a press release accompanying this study published on Monday August 22.
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Some 5 million people in the European Union and the United Kingdom consume game on average once a week, according to the study signed by Professor Green and published in the American publication PLOS (Public library of science). Among the British alone, game bird enthusiasts swallow 11,000 tonnes a year, mainly pheasant.
These consumers identify small pellets, to better save their teeth, but without eliminating any risk to their health. Because contrary to what we imagined, the lead penetrating the flesh of the animal does not remain intact, according to the study. To prove it, the team led by Pr Green went shopping at a butcher in Cambridge, with eight pretty pheasants, ready to eat. The critters avoided the passage to the pan but not to the scanner, which made it possible to visualize on average in each carcass 3.5 shotgun pellets, but above all 39 shards of metal less than 2 mm in diameter, often far from the pellets them themselves. The smallest measured 0.07mm, the scanner’s detection limit, suggesting the presence of even smaller pieces.
The researchers made sure that the most visible fragments were indeed lead, by dissolving the meat and then analyzing the material with a spectrometer. Lead, part of which will accumulate in the body, is considered harmful to health. It is only tolerated in minute proportions in food by European and British health authorities. In this case, less than 100 parts per billion for meat from livestock, recalls the study. That is the equivalent, for a 100 gram piece of meat, of less than one hundred thousandth of a gram of lead.
However, the researchers found in one of their pheasants up to 10 milligrams of lead, in the form of tiny splinters, too small to be detected by the eye or the tooth. And on average, a theoretical ingestion of 3.4 milligrams per pheasant. The bird is the delight of two or three guests, sharing such an amount of lead occasionally is not a drama, according to Rhys Green. But it becomes problematic forthe thousands of people in the UK who eat game, often pheasant, every week“, he writes.
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The European Chemicals Agency reports an estimate of 44,000 tonnes of lead “scattered» every year in the environment with sport shooting, hunting and fishing. It has proposed severe restrictions on the use of lead in these practices, which should be submitted to European authorities and states in 2023.
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