According to the British Pheasant Study, game bird enthusiasts should be wary of the amount of lead contained in the animal, which is undetectable by the average gourmet but well above health standards.
“While lead cartridges are still used for hunting, people who eat pheasants or similar wild birds are likely to consume large amounts of tiny lead fragments,” says Prof Reese Green of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Zoology. the release accompanying this study was published on Monday.
According to a study signed by Professor Green and published in the American publication PLOS (Public library of science), about 5 million people in the European Union and the United Kingdom consume games on average once a week. Among the British alone, wild bird lovers ingest 11,000 tons a year, mostly pheasants.
These consumers choose small granules to better preserve their teeth, but without eliminating any risk to their health. Because, contrary to what we imagined, according to the study, lead that penetrates the flesh of an animal does not remain intact. To prove this, a group led by Professor Green went shopping to a butcher in Cambridge with eight pretty pheasants ready to eat.
The animals avoided the passage to the pallet, but not to the scanner, which made it possible to visualize on average 3.5 shotgun pellets in each carcass, but above all 39 metal fragments less than 2 mm in diameter, often far from their shot – the same. The smallest of them measured 0.07 mm, the detection limit of the scanner, suggesting even smaller particles.
– Lead shards –
The researchers confirmed that the most visible fragments were indeed lead by dissolving the meat and then analyzing the material with a spectrometer. Lead, some of which will accumulate in the body, is considered harmful to health.
Pheasant farm in central France, December 2020 (AFP/Archive – GUILLAUME SOUVANT)
European and British health authorities allow only small amounts of it to be eaten. In this case, less than 100 ppb for bovine meat, the study recalls. This is equivalent to less than one hundred thousandth of a gram of lead for a 100 gram piece of meat.
However, the researchers found up to 10 milligrams of lead in one of their pheasants in tiny shards too small to be detected by eye or tooth. And the average theoretical intake is 3.4 milligrams per pheasant.
According to Rhys Green, a bird is a treat for two or three guests, sometimes sharing that much lead is not a drama. But it’s becoming a problem for “thousands of people in the UK who eat game every week, often pheasant,” he writes.
The European Chemicals Agency reports that 44,000 tons of lead are released into the environment every year as a result of sports shooting, hunting and fishing. He proposed tough limits on the use of lead in this practice, to be presented to European authorities and states in 2023.