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Venison carries low risk of food poisoning, study finds

Report into safety of meat from Scottish deer reveals low prevalence of harmful bacteria.

Consumers of Scottish venison are at low risk of contracting severe food poisoning, a Scotland-wide study of deer and venison has found.

Very few deer were found to carry the most harmful strains of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), according to the research, involving experts from the Moredun Institute and the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.

The findings recommend good hygiene practices in the processing of deer meat to minimise the risk of consumers being infected with the bacteria, which can cause gastrointestinal upset and, in some cases, severe illness.

The findings, published by Food Standards Scotland, may help to limit the risk of an incidence of widespread food poisoning caused by STEC, like that of an outbreak in 2015 that affected 12 people.

Bacteria sampling

Careful processing of venison products helps limit the risk to consumers.
Careful processing of venison products helps limit the risk to consumers.

The study involved a review of previous research into STEC and a study of bacteria on deer carcasses at all stages of production.

Analysis of deer faeces found that about one in 300 – 0.34 per cent – of samples contained STEC 0157, but the strains present are among the most harmful and could pose a risk to health.

Good hygiene in processing meat from wild deer can help to limit the risk of contamination. This includes careful, swift removal of dead deer from the site of the cull, especially in warmer weather, and care regarding contamination or dirty, wet animal hides, the findings showed.

The report also recommends minimising storage time for carcasses prior to processing, and maintaining low temperature chilling of carcasses and meat to limit the risk of bacterial contamination.

Bacterial contamination on meat was within acceptable limits at all stages of production, the study found.

The report was funded by the Food Standards Scotland and the Scottish Government.  

The good news is that Scottish venison carries low levels of STEC 0157, which suggests is it safe. However the risk of food poisoning should be taken seriously.

Alex SeguinoRoyal Dick School of Veterinary Studies

Care is needed at all stages of venison processing to minimise the risk of contamination.

Cristina SoareRoyal Dick School of Veterinary Studies

Related links

Food Standards Scotland report