<p>A pheasant sitting in a field</p>

A pheasant sitting in a field

Pheasant meat sold at Waitrose contaminated with toxic lead, campaign group says

Waitrose meat had the highest median levels of lead of the retailers tested

Saman Javed
Saturday 18 December 2021 21:10
Comments

Pheasant meat sold at Waitrose is still contaminated with lead despite the retailer’s promise to switch to lead-free meat more than two years ago, tests have found.

Wild Justice, a campaign group that advocates for better protection of the UK’s wildlife, tested 14 fillets of pheasant bought from Waitrose stores in Essex and London in late November.

Meats such as beef, chicken and pork must adhere to maximum levels of lead of 0.1mg per kg but there is currently no set maximum level for game meat.

Tests for lead contamination in Waitrose’s pheasant fillets found they had a median level of 2.92mgs of lead per kg.

Wild Justice said this indicated that Waitrose has made “no progress” in ensuring that its meat is not contaminated with lead because tests in 2020 found the median level of lead in Waitrose whole pheasants was 0.5mg per kg.

When game meat is shot with lead ammunition, the pellets pass through the bird’s flesh and tiny fragments of lead which are too small to see or remove, are distributed through the animal.

The Food Standards Agency advises the public to limit its consumption of game meat shot with lead.

Wild Justice also tested pheasant meat from Sainsbury’s and Harrods.

The median level of lead in Sainsbury’s breast fillets was 1.88mg per kg, while the median level in Harrods’ whole pheasants was 0.23mg per kg.

In a statement to The Independent, Waitrose said it strongly refutes any suggestion that its shoots are using lead ammunition, and that the results are due to environmental residues.

“Our understanding is that no shot was found in the Waitrose game tested and we are confident that these results are explained by environmental residues. We have stringent controls on our supply chain where no lead-based ammunition is used,” the statement said.

In a statement announcing the results of its tests, Wild Justice said Waitrose has agreed to meet with the group to discuss lead in game meat.

“Lead is a poison. These lead levels would be illegal in other meats. The most overwhelmingly likely explanation for such very high lead levels is contamination by fragments of lead shot,” Wild Justice said.

“There is no Lead Fairy sprinkling lead into Waitrose game meat. Waitrose have not apologised for, or explained, their failure. Why is a small organisation like Wild Justice having to test the levels of poison in meat sold by a major retailer? These tests cost a few hundred quid – why didn’t Waitrose test their own game meat?”

In a statement to The Independent, Sainsbury’s said it is supporting its suppliers to remove all lead shot from its meat by July 2022.

“Our suppliers work hard to minimise any presence of lead shot in game and while it’s rare it’s possible small traces may remain in the product. This is explained on the packaging so that our customers can make informed decisions about the items that they buy.”

The Independent has contacted Harrods for comment.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in