Health officials address lead in processed venison

by Bryan Salvage
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BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota state officials relayed that new state testing uncovered nearly 6% of the samples from venison processed last fall in their state contained lead bullets. Study results were released Sept. 17.

Based on the findings, state health officials continue to recommend pregnant women and children younger than six years of age avoid meat from deer killed with lead bullets, State Health Department lead program coordinator Sandi Washek said. She added health officials recommend "everybody else use their judgment to minimize their exposure."

Ms. Washek said 404 samples of ground venison were checked from 54 meat processors across North Dakota. Each sample was about a quarter-cup in size.

Last fall, the state Agriculture Department published recommendations to encourage more precautions in butchering venison. Butchers were urged to clean processing equipment more frequently and to check to make sure lead pieces were not caught in grinders to contaminate meat, said Andrea Grondahl, the state meat inspector. Butchers also were asked to trim farther from bullet wounds in deer, she added.

Officials said samples were sent to a lab in Iowa for testing. Ms. Grondahl called it a "basic" study.

Last November, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state Health Department released a study showing people who eat wild game shot with lead bullets tend to have higher lead levels in their blood. Health officials collected blood samples from more than 700 people in North Dakota, most of them adults who ate venison from deer killed with high-velocity ammunition.

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