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There is “more lead in beer than game meat,” say MPs

MPs have questioned why the use of lead ammunition is being singled out as a health concern, when the lead content of other food items is so much higher.

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In a debate on lead ammunition in the House of Commons last month, Rishi Sunak, Conservative MP for Richmond, commented: “The average consumer is exposed to 60 per cent more lead from their consumption of beer. Products contributing more lead to our diets than game meat include potatoes, coffee and even everyday eggs. Simply put, all studies carried out to date show that eating game meat in moderate quantities has no effect on blood lead levels.”

Threat from game meat extremely small

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Conservative MP for The Cotswolds, concurred: “The threat from game meat specifically is extremely small. The European Food Safety Authority has stated that lead from game meat represents 0.1 per cent of average total dietary lead exposure — significantly less than other groups such as beer and substitutes, which expose the average European consumer to 62 per cent more lead than game meat. Only 0.1 per cent of the British adult population consumes game meat at higher levels than the Food Standards Agency’s guidance.”

Charles Walker, Conservative MP for Broxbourne, posed the question: “The shooting of birds with lead shot has been going on for many centuries. Where is the public health crisis?

Lead content in food

“Lead is present in many foods that we all consume, and in alcohol and beer, so clearly there must be some level of tolerance or we would all be dropping down in the streets.”

The debate was secured by Gerald Jones, Labour MP for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, responding to an online petition, and also considered the financial impact of a lead ban, the work of the Lead Ammunition Group (LAG) and potential alternatives to lead ammunition.

George Eustice, DEFRA minister and Conservative MP for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle, commented that due to the failure of the LAG: “We have no expert consensus about the impact of lead ammunition on wildlife or on human health.”