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Dangers of lead in venison

The following are excerpted from the official summary of a seven-state conference on the potential dangers of lead in venison. While no link has been made between deer killed with lead and any human illness, state health, game and agriculture departments are studying the issue, and in the meantime, these are the reminders they're issuing for hunters, people who consume venison, and meat processors.

Hunters

• Lead particles found in hunter-harvested venison have not been linked to any illnesses.

• Lead is a neurotoxin but toxicity depends on the level and frequency of exposure. It is particularly harmful to children 6 and younger and pregnant women.

• Lead can have physiological effects on human bodies and brains at levels below that which would cause any noticeable signs of sickness.

• The following guidelines and suggestions can eliminate or reduce and minimize the potential risk of consuming lead fragments, depending on the risk tolerance of the hunter.

• Consider alternatives to ammunition that is prone to fragment — these alternatives could include non-lead (copper) or other high-weight retention ammunition.

• Lead particles in venison will likely be too small to detect by sight, feel, or when chewing the meat.

• If you process your own meat, do not use deer with excessive shot damage. Trim a generous distance away from the wound channel and discard any meat that is bruised, discolored or contains hair, dirt, bone fragments or grass.

• Practice clean field handling techniques. Dress, thoroughly rinse, and keep the carcass cool.

• Practice marksmanship and outdoors skills to get cleaner, closer shots and better shots. For example, additional shots may be needed if shooting at a moving target.

Consumers
• Venison is a high-protein meat that has nutritional benefits. Venison donation programs are an excellent source of protein for needy families.

• Hunter-harvested deer may contain lead particles.

• Lead particles found in hunter-harvested venison have not been linked to any illnesses.

• Lead is a neurotoxin but toxicity depends on the level and frequency of exposure. It is particularly harmful to children 6 and younger and pregnant women.

• If there is any concern, children 6 and younger and pregnant women should not consume venison.

• Lead can have physiological effects on human bodies and brains at levels below that which would cause any noticeable signs of sickness.

• Initial tests indicate that ground meat has a higher tendency to contain lead particles. Lead fragments are rare in whole muscle-cuts.

• Provide recipes for those not familiar with preparing whole muscle-cuts.

• Consider avoiding vinegar and other acidic substances when preparing venison. Acids can make any lead more soluble and more easily absorbed in the body.

• Venison donation programs are tools that help wildlife officials manage wild deer herds.

Meat processors
• There is a high likelihood that any deer shot with a firearm using lead ammunition will contain lead particles.

• Use care when selecting meat for grinding. Do not use deer with excessive shot damage. Trim a generous distance away from the bullet wound channel and discard any meat that is bruised, discolored or contains hair, dirt, bone fragments or grass.

• Lead is a neurotoxin but toxicity depends on the level and frequency of exposure. It is particularly harmful to children 6 and younger and pregnant women. Care should be taken to minimize any contamination.

• Lead can have physiological effects on human bodies and brains at levels below that which would cause any noticeable signs of sickness.

• Most lead particles in venison are too small to be seen or felt.

• Periodically check grinders for lead fragments.

• Minimize batching of multiple deer to avoid cross-contamination.