High risk of eating contaminated red grouse as inadequate safety checks continue

We’ve been writing about the grouse shooting industry’s dodgy use of veterinary drugs for some time.

In 2015 we exposed the scandal about how Government regulators had failed to test shot red grouse for residues of Flubendazole, an anti-worming drug that is used by grouse moor managers at up to twenty times the strength permitted in the UK, in the form of medicated grit placed out in trays on grouse moors.

Photo of a medicated grit tray on a Scottish grouse moor [Ruth Tingay]

Grouse moor managers, if compliant with the law (not something they’re well known for), should remove all traces of medicated grit from the moors no later than 28 days prior to the grouse being shot and entering the human food chain. Statutory testing is required to ensure legal compliance, as is done for every other meat product destined for human consumption.

When challenged about its failure to conduct statutory tests on shot red grouse to ensure the drug is not entering the food chain, the Government’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) claimed, unbelievably, that testing had never taken place because officers didn’t know where to find carcasses to test!! (see here).

After we’d pointed out where dead red grouse could be located for testing, the VMD promised to begin tests in 2016. We followed up on this to find out how much testing had been done in 2016 and were shocked to find that only six samples (two from Scotland, four from England) had been tested, out of a conservatively estimated 700,000 shot birds (see here).

In 2017 we followed up again and discovered that the VMD had only managed to test eight birds this time (four from Scotland, four from England) (see here).

This year, according to an FoI response to one of our blog readers, the VMD says “Ten samples are scheduled to be collected“.

This continued level of inadequate testing is scandalous. The number of red grouse shot each year is now likely to exceed 1 million birds (the estimated 700,000 shot birds comes from the industry’s 2012/2013 figures and we know that the intensification of grouse moor management has increased significantly in some areas over the last five years so an estimate of 1 million shot birds is probably still a gross underestimate).

How can the testing of ten birds, out of an estimated 1 million, be considered representative?

How can the Government continue to risk public health like this?

Ah, but then this is the same Government that refuses to test ANY game birds for lead shot, a highly toxic poison, despite every other type of meat destined for human consumption having to undergo rigorous tests for Pb.

We do know that the Scottish Government’s current review of grouse moor management is considering the unregulated use of medicated grit, which presumably will include an assessment of the risk to public health as well as the significant spread of wildlife disease that is a consequence of using communal medicated grit trays (see here).

We’ll return to this issue throughout the year as the game shooting industry launches yet another desperate greenwashing campaign to market red grouse and other gamebirds as ‘healthy’.

Some toxic red grouse ready for cooking. Yum yum. [Photo by Ruth Tingay]

5 Responses to “High risk of eating contaminated red grouse as inadequate safety checks continue”

  1. July 12, 2018 at 1:59 pm

    In the UK, the food standards are instructed to turn a blind eye…but it seems that the mainland Europeans are not burdened by such political interference.
    Killing for fun produces such an unwanted surplus of carcases. Historically the surplus was processed and sold to continental Europe .. Its now rumoured that the processed meat has failed food standards checks so regularly that they are not buying it anymore. This is one of the reasons that the toxic byproduct of killing for fun now has to be landfilled or rendered.
    It would be useful if there was a way we could FOI French, German, Italian and Spanish food standards…. So we can pass the results to our head in the sand brigade.

  2. July 12, 2018 at 2:55 pm

    Any testing, even on a random basis, would be completely pointless, and potentially dangerously misleading. If the testing authority or private company were able to certify compliance, that could only be for that single supplier source – with no suggestion whatever that a carcass from any other source could be deemed compliant, based on that single source testing. It would be a pointless exercise unless random samples were taken from each and every source – not a practical or economically viable solution. If the birds are subjected to medicated grit overseen by a gamekeeper, you could only sensibly steer clear of it and treat it for what it very likely would be – a cocktail of chemicals and lead shot bred to be a moving target and little else.

  3. 3 Paul V Irving
    July 12, 2018 at 4:48 pm

    Do we know what proportion of other meats are checked for vet meds? It does seem like a ludicrously low level of testing, even if the bag was as low as 700,000 it is just 1 in 70,000. However without an idea of what proportion of other meats are tested we don’t know if all testing is so inadequate or if grouse shooting is getting preferential treatment.

  4. 5 Peter Moss
    July 12, 2018 at 10:19 pm

    Does anyone know what they do with the medicated grit ‘removed’ from the moor before the shooting season?

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