LECAHUNT - Study of the lead and cadmium contamination in big game meat

Last updated on 14-12-2022 by Pierre Daubresse
Project duration:
October 1, 2018
March 31, 2020

In short

Lead is a widely occurring, hazardous contaminant. Although lead has been banned from several applications (e.g. gasoline, paint,…) because of human health concerns, it is still widely used in hunting ammunition. Several studies have shown that hunting game with lead-containing bullets can result in increased lead levels in meat for consumption. Hence, this could be a relevant food safety issue for vulnerable population groups. The LECAHUNT project aims to collect Belgian data on the presence of lead and cadmium in game meat, and to evaluate the associated exposure and risk.

Project description

In the context of a potential health risk due to the presence of lead (Pb) in big game meat shot with Pb-containing ammunition, we will collect representative data on the presence of Pb in edible meat of big game (roe deer, wild boar and red deer) shot in Belgium. The samples are collected in collaboration with hunters and game processing centres, or bought in supermarkets. We will analyse the data in relation to the geographical area where the animals were shot, their age, sex, and the location of the wound channel.

We will also process data on Pb and cadmium (Cd) concentrations in kidney of roe deer in relation to the geographical origin and the age of the animal to get an insight in the environmental exposure of big game in Belgium.

Further, we will investigate more in detail the effect of the distance to the wound channel on meat Pb concentrations, because this information may be helpful when defining measures that can help to reduce Pb exposure due to game meat consumption.

Based on various consumption scenarios, the exposure to Pb via the consumption of game meat will be assessed for high-level consumers of big game meat, i.e. hunters and their relatives, and a risk evaluation will be performed.

To complement the Belgian data, we will provide a summary of international studies related to the use and risks of bullets containing Pb. In addition, we will give an overview of policy recommendations formulated abroad concerning the consumption of big game meat and the option of using non-lead ammunition.

Sciensano's project investigator(s):

Service(s) working on this project


Dr Jim Casaer – INBO
Dr Frank Huysentruyt – INBO
Anneleen Rutten – INBO
Jan Vercammen – INBO

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