Shot Pellets in Meat

Can shot pellets found in wild game cause lead poisoning?

Q: We eat a great deal of wild game, mostly birds, and invariably someone at the table finds a shot pellet. Does the occasional ingestion of a shot pellet present a danger of lead poisoning?

A: It is very unlikely that lead poisoning would be contracted from eating a piece of lead shot. The surface area of a shot pellet is small and would have little opportunity to react in the body before it was eliminated through the intestine. You would either have to eat a lot of shot or grind some into powder before ingesting it to pose a likely poisoning problem. The latter would be analogous to lead poisoning in waterfowl, wherein the shot is reduced to a fine state in the gizzard. The more probable health-related problem associated with eating game birds can occur when someone bites into a piece of shot, especially steel, with sufficient force to break a tooth. If you're fortunate enough to sit down to a wild goose, duck, or game bird dinner, bon appétit, but chew with care.

 

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