ND pantries to resume giving venison to needy

Bismarck, N.D. (AP) – A North Dakota program that distributes
venison to the needy will resume accepting deer that have been
killed with lead bullets.

The North Dakota Community Action Partnership, which administers
the Sportsmen Against Hunger program, accepted only deer killed
with arrows last year, fearing that firearm-shot meat may contain
lead fragments.

Executive Director Ann Pollert said venison distributed at food
pantries will be labeled with warnings for pregnant women and young
children because they are most at risk from lead poisoning.

“We’re going to work with the food pantries to let them know to
not distribute donated venison to households with young children,”
she said.

Officials in North Dakota and other states warned about eating
venison killed with lead ammunition since last year, when Dr.
William Cornatzer of Bismarck, a physician and hunter, conducted
his own tests using a CT scanner and found lead in samples of
donated deer meat.

The findings led North Dakota’s Health Department to order food
pantries to throw out about 4,000 pounds of donated venison,
Pollert said.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the
state Health Department released a study in November that found
people who eat wild game shot with lead bullets tend to have higher
lead levels in their blood.

Health officials collected blood samples last year from more
than 700 people in North Dakota. Most were adults who ate venison
from deer killed with high-velocity ammunition.

State health officials then recommended that pregnant women and
children younger than 6 avoid meat from deer killed with lead
bullets.

“From the beginning, we have said lead is not a good thing to
eat, especially for pregnant women and children,” said Loreeta
Canton, a state Health Department spokeswoman. “Everyone else has
to make that decision whether they feel it’s safe to eat or they
don’t.”

Cornatzer, the Bismarck doctor, said further study of wild game
killed with lead bullets is needed.

“It’s good that (food pantries) are not going to be feeding this
to young children and pregnant women,” he said. “But there are
still unknown effects of lead in adults.”

The Community Action Partnership distributed about 19,000 pounds
of venison from 381 donated deer after the 2007 hunting season,
Pollert said.

She said 3,200 pounds of venison killed by bowhunters were
distributed last year.

Food pantries “struggle to keep a quality meat protein source on
their shelves and venison is a quality, very lean protein source,”
she said. “We’re glad the program is going to continue.”

Pollert said she expects venison donations to increase.

“This issue has brought much more exposure for us, and although
it’s an issue we didn’t plan for, a lot more sportsmen know there
is a need out there,” she said.

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