Iceland (the supermarket) responds: massive fail

IcelandOn Friday we blogged about the news that Iceland Foods is set to sell old frozen red grouse in its supermarkets next month and we set out our concerns about this (see here). Mark Avery also wrote a blog about the same subject and had similar concerns (see here).

We encouraged blog readers to email Iceland Foods CEO Malcolm Walker and ask him some questions. On Friday evening, the following statement appeared on the Iceland Foods website:


The frozen grouse we will be selling are a branded product supplied by Kezie Foods. Below is some further information on this product.

  • The grouse were shot on the grouse moors of southern Scotland and Northern England towards the end of the last shooting season.
  • It is generally accepted that frozen game including grouse will remain in great condition and safe to eat for two years. The grouse going on sale in Iceland were frozen no more than ten months ago. As freezing is Nature’s pause button they will be in excellent condition.
  • Game shot with lead ammunition has not been proven medically to have any adverse health effect.
  • The FSA’s advice is to avoid eating shot game frequently, which they define as once or more per week every week of the year. There is no documented medical advice that moderate consumption of shot game is in any way detrimental to health.
  • Game is good to eat, and is a great source of low fat tender meat.
  • All our grouse are processed through an EU approved game plant which has strict health controls and each batch of grouse is inspected by an FSA approved vet and can only enter the food chain once approved.
  • We do not condone illegal activities and would not source from any establishment which was involved in any illegal activity
  • Proper moorland management is fundamental to the rural environment. Any form of wildlife control is properly regulated. We do not source from moorlands with unethical or questionable practices.
  • A managed heather programme, involving limited and rotational heather burning, is an accepted part of good moorland management to protect the rural environment. If moorland were not managed, there would be no grouse.


It was good to see a quick response from Iceland Foods but the details within that response leave a lot to be desired and don’t come anywhere near close to answering the questions we posed. It looks like we’ll have to ask some more questions:

Questions for Iceland Foods CEO Malcolm Walker:

1. You say that “it is generally accepted that frozen game including grouse will remain in great condition and safe to eat for two years”. Please can you tell us BY WHOM it is generally accepted? Because every single website we’ve looked at when researching maximum storage times for frozen meat provides a range of between 1-12 months, not “two years”. And we’ve looked at a lot of websites, including UK and USA sites. Granted, there is very limited specific information about storage times for feathered game (which makes us all the more curious about the source of your claim) although we did find one website where feathered game was specifically mentioned (Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, USA – see here) and they say game bird meat will store in the freezer for 9-12 months. It’s also pretty disingenuous to claim that “as freezing is Nature’s pause button they will be in excellent condition [for two years]” because during those long months in the freezer, the meat still undergoes changes, typically causing rancidity and oxidation, which is why frozen meat is labelled with a ‘best before date’ and why guidelines are provided for maximum storage periods!

2. You say that “game shot with lead ammunition has not been proven medically to have any adverse health effect”. Hmm. Is that because, inexplicably, game meat is exempt from the legal lead level tests required for every other type of meat sold in the UK (e.g. pork, chicken beef) and when it has been tested (see here) some of it was found to contain more than ten times the legal level (and some of it 100 times the legal level) allowed for those other meats? With this frightening level of poison in lead-shot red grouse, and “the overwhelming scientific evidence on the toxic effects of lead on human and wildlife health” (see here) how can you possibly claim that eating lead-shot red grouse is safe and healthy?

3. You say “we would not source from any establishment which was involved in any illegal activity”. Please will you tell us how you assess whether any of your source establishments is or isn’t involved in any illegal activity? Which body or organisation is making that assessment, on what basis is the assessment made, and is the assessor independent? For transparency, please name the estates.

4. You say “we do not source from moorlands with unethical or questionable practices”. Please will you tell us how you assess whether each of those moors/estates is or isn’t involved with unethical or questionable practices? Which body or organisation is making that assessment, on what basis is the assessment made, and is the assessor independent? For transparency, please name the estates.

5. You say “Proper moorland management is fundamental to the rural environment”. However, moorland management practices associated with intensively managed grouse moors, such as burning and drainage, can damage internationally important peatland and increase greenhouse gas emissions (see here). Please can you explain how these damaging management practices are “fundamental to the rural environment”?

6. You say that “any form of wildlife control is properly regulated” [on the moors from where your red grouse are sourced]. Please can you explain what you mean by “properly regulated”? Wildlife control (usually the killing of predators and also mountain hares) is highly unregulated on grouse moors with no requirement for monitoring the population impact on those species that are killed.

7. You say “If moorland were not managed, there would be no grouse”. Could you please explain this statement? Do you mean that if the moorlands were not intensively managed, the natural grouse population would be just fine but there wouldn’t be the ridiculously artificial high density of red grouse available for people to shoot? Because that’s very different from saying ‘without moorland management there would be no grouse’.

Emails please to Iceland Foods CEO Malcolm Walker: malcolm.walker@iceland.co.uk

8 Responses to “Iceland (the supermarket) responds: massive fail”

  1. 1 steve macsweeney
    July 13, 2015 at 8:35 am

    Thanks very much for that. Have you posed these questions to Malcolm Walker?

  2. July 13, 2015 at 9:36 am

    Wonderful response as always RPS, Can’t wait to read Mr Walker’s answers, though my expectation is that there won’t be a further response, or at best a terse couple of lines of the sort we are so used to receiving. The only recourse if this is the case is for us ‘ordinary’ people to keel pestering him with our own emails (so thanks for the link) and to raise any lack of an adequate response with the media.

    • 3 bimbling
      July 13, 2015 at 1:16 pm

      Not the only recourse…don’t shop at Iceland, advise your friends not to, tell them why, and let Mr Walker know you’ve done this too. Then tell your local paper etc,, etc.

  3. 4 Douglas Malpus
    July 13, 2015 at 10:17 am

    White wash as expected!

  4. 5 Les Wallace
    July 13, 2015 at 11:16 am

    Disappointing, but yet pretty much expected response from Iceland. Have emailed Malcolm Walker again and have added link to a brilliant infographic the League of Cruel Sports did in response to a (mis)infographic produced by shooting interests to show ‘wonderful’ grouse moors are http://www.league.org.uk/inglorioustwelve

  5. 6 Peter Shearer
    July 13, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    I guess all we can do in addition to writing to him is not to use them-the power we still have!

  6. 7 Marco McGinty
    July 13, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    I watched Walker being interviewed last year, and thought that he was arrogant and obnoxious. It doesn’t look as though things have changed much.

  7. 8 Pip
    July 14, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    I know nothing about this. But – if these birds have been shot with lead then surely the remains when sold for human consumption would be subject to scrutiny by some relevant body notwithstanding that initially they are exempt from such lead level tests? A corpse thus sent to the public analyst revealing high levels of lead would presumably result in some kind of official sanction and no doubt the attentions of a “no win no fee” set of rapacious legal eagles (no pun intended). That is, of course, if there is transference of lead particles from the shot to the flesh of the bird. In any event I doubt but that the shot itself would be swallowed voluntarily but any smaller particles would be swallowed (how cooking would affect all of this is anyone’s guess) and these would mostly be expelled in the normal manner – “these particles would be in an insoluble form although they may dissolve in contact with solubilizing molecules such a fruit acids – lead ions carry the same charge as calcium ions , but they are much larger in size and in that respect they will not easily squeeze through the intercellular junctions of the gut wall to penetrate the channels of the gut membrane and thereby gain access to the bloodstream. Nevertheless, some does get through” John Emsley. So there you have it – feeling lucky,punk?

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