U.S. involved in network dealing with game meat safety

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The United States is part of a network on safe meat from wild game.

The “Safety in the Game Meat Chain” network will run for four years under the leadership of the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR).

It includes 29 countries, many of which are EU member states and non-EU countries, including those in the Western Balkans, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand, and Australia.

The aim is to promote the exchange of knowledge on the health risks for consumers of game meat obtained through hunting. Such meat includes red deer, wild boar, or pheasant.

“We aim to make this valuable animal-derived food as safe as possible in Europe and worldwide. We aim to minimize chemical and microbial risks as much as possible,” said Professor Andreas Hensel, BfR president.

Focus on different hazards
Until the end of September 2027, five working groups will focus on hunting and processing, game meat trade networks, the supply chain, and various biological and chemical hazards.

The network will collaborate with stakeholder groups to translate knowledge into actions along the production chain “from forest to fork.”

Areas of interest include undesirable substances and contaminants from the environment and preventing or reducing the input of heavy metals, especially lead, from hunting ammunition. Biological hazards range from parasites such as Trichinella to bacterial agents including Salmonella and E. coli, as well as viruses like hepatitis E (HEV) in wild boars. 

Risks of chemical and microbial origin that may arise during the processing and trade of game meat potentially contaminating the end product, will also be assessed.

Partners aim to gather insights into different hunting and training practices and national legal regulations and standards on inspection and hygiene for game meat.

The goal is to share scientific knowledge gained through the network and to align long-term food safety standards across borders. Another focus will be educating consumers about the risks of game meat and its safe handling.

Other studies
The safety of game meat has been highlighted in several studies. In one, researchers from the University of Cambridge tested samples of raw pheasant dog food and found that most contained high lead levels.

Scientists analyzed 90 samples from three raw pheasant dog food products bought in the UK and found that 77 percent had lead concentrations above the maximum residue level (MRL) permitted in animal feed.

An earlier study revealed that three years into a five-year pledge to phase out lead shot in UK game hunting, 94 percent of pheasants on sale for human consumption were killed using lead.

“If UK game hunters are going to phase out lead shot voluntarily, they’re not doing very well so far.  The small decrease in the proportion of birds shot with lead in the latest UK shooting season is nowhere near on track to achieve a complete transition to non-toxic ammunition in the next two years,” said Professor Rhys Green from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Zoology.

Other work revealed that from 2002 to 2023, 185 cases of trichinellosis reported in Italy were due to consumption of wild boar meat from hunting. A case of Hepatitis E virus has also been reported from butchering deer meat in the United States.

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