Sainsbury’s are selling toxic game meat without a public health warning

Do you remember last autumn/winter when Sainsbury’s started selling game meat that was being marketed as ‘healthy’, although there was no public health warning on the packaging about the possibility the meat could contain poisonous lead shot?

These products had been endorsed by the British Game Alliance, who apparently are all about ‘traceability and credibility’ (ahem).

[Photo by Ruth Tingay]

However, when customers asked Sainsbury’s about the provenance of this meat and whether it contained poisonous lead shot, the response was remarkably coy, (e.g. see here, here, here, here), especially from a supermarket that claims it wants to be ‘the UK’s most trusted retailer‘.

Sainsbury’s game dealer supplier, Holme Farmed Venison, didn’t respond to questions about the provenance of the game birds or whether the products contained toxic lead.

So in February this year, Wild Justice announced it had bought some of these products and was having them tested in a specialist laboratory to see whether they contained toxic lead and if so, how much (see here).

The results are in and this morning Wild Justice published them – see here

Oh dear, Sainsbury’s. It’s not looking good, is it?

18 thoughts on “Sainsbury’s are selling toxic game meat without a public health warning”

  1. It’s Game On at Sainsbury’s with their new ‘brand slogan’: “Helping Everyone Eat Better.., er, toxic metal”.

  2. Why do the local Council’s Environment Health Departments act in a similar way to which the test private water supplies??? These water supplies may serve three or four households, Sainsbury’s Game Meat theoretically feeds the nation. Where is the balance???
    They are regularly checking ALL food outlets and taking samples for analysis. Under what pretense is Game Meat exempt???

    1. “Under what pretense is Game Meat exempt???”
      Well, under the regulations! Which of course need to change.

  3. “The results are in and this morning Wild Justice published them – see here

    Oh dear, Sainsbury’s. It’s not looking good, is it? ”

    Sainsbury’s have always strove to be in the lead. I don’t think that report is what they had in mind.

    I wonder if they will attempt to defend their stance and dig themselves into a deeper hole.
    Faced with the thought of a toxin in food it would have been wise to drop the product to safeguard their reputation.

  4. And while they are on redesigning the label, take off the total falsehood that it is “Wild” game. My granny had budgies wilder than the average “commercial shoot” pheasant.

  5. I’m neither pro or anti shooting but do enjoy eating game. Surely it is up to the individual if he/she wishes to eat it and most people who do eat it accept lead levels and eat in moderation. I find it hard that an organisation like yours think they can decide what other people should eat, if you don’t want to that’s perfectly acceptable but please don’t spoil it for everyone who may not agree with your stance on game bird shooting!
    I think it is fine to eat game as what’s the difference between Sainsbury’s selling alcohol?
    It can have a detrimental effect on a lot of people and at least game can’t make you gameaholic!
    People should be free in this world to eat whatever they fancy.

    1. Hi Ed,

      Can you point to the bit where ‘an organisation like yours think they can decide what other people should eat’?

      You won’t be able to, because that’s not what’s happened.

      What we are doing is arguing that the public have a right to make informed choices about whether they want to eat something that is 87 times the legal limit for lead in other meat. We also believe the public should be informed that game meat is inexplicably exempt from these safety regulations, even though game birds are shot with lead shot! Why do you think that is? Who could possibly benefit from this exemption? Not the general public, that’s for sure.

      Alcohol has a public health warning. Indeed, it’s a legal requirement, so that people can make informed choices.

      Why doesn’t toxic game meat require a public health warning? How can it possibly be marketed as being ‘healthy’ when it contains such a high level of toxicity?

      If you want to eat poison then crack on, as you say, it’s your choice. But I’ll bet that most customers shopping in Sainsbury’s will not expect to have this safety information withheld from them. That Sainsbury’s does this, with the help of the game shooting industry, is a scandal.

    2. Are you sure that lead poisoning hasn’t affected your reasoning? It is pretty clear that nobody is saying you cannot poison yourself with lead – just that you should be able to poison yourself and your family in the sure and certain knowledge that that is what you are doing. Oh, and questioning why game is not subject to the same public health rules as all farmed meat is, which is surely reasonable (unless you have ingested too much lead to understand such nuances)?

  6. Neurotoxic Effects and Biomarkers of Lead Exposure: A Review – Sanders, Liu, Buchner and Tchounwou – April 2010

    Abstract: “Lead, a systemic toxicant affecting virtually every organ system, primarily affects the central nervous system, particularly the developing brain. Consequently, children are at a greater risk than adults of suffering from the neurotoxic effects of lead. The ability of lead to pass through the blood-brain barrier is due in large part to its ability to substitute for calcium ions. Within the brain, lead-induced damage in the prefrontal cerebral cortex, hippocampus, and cerebellum can lead to a variety of neurological disorders, such as brain damage, mental retardation, behavioral problems, nerve damage, and possibly Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and schizophrenia.”

  7. It is extraordinary that Sainsbury’s are still selling a food product that contains levels of a toxin that would be illegal in other food products. Has anyone asked them if they take a similar approach to other items that they sell?

  8. An excellent piece of work. Can we submit a FOI to the veterinary Medicean directorate to release their historical results?

  9. Have tweeted Sainsburys directly asking why they are selling a poison under the guise of healthy eating. Will put up the reply, should they respond.

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