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The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA), formerly Veterinary Laboratories Agency, has investigated on-farm potential food safety incidents on behalf of the Foods Standards Agency (FSA) since 2001. Lead intoxication accounts for the majority of on-farm potential food safety incidents and is associated with a variety of different sources of lead, including lead acid batteries, paint, geochemical lead and metallic lead. Several of the metallic lead incidents involve exposure to lead shot from clay pigeon shooting.
This paper describes five such cases that have occurred since 2008, three in birds and two in cattle, with the intention of highlighting this hazard.
Case 1: Lead poisoning was confirmed in a flock of 2000 free range laying hens which were 42 weeks into lay. The hens' range was next to an active clay pigeon shoot. The flock had never reached its expected production potential and mortality had slowly increased. Postmortem examinations revealed egg peritonitis and lead shot was consistently present in the gizzards with one bird having 59.0 g (Figs 1 and 2).
Subsequent whole egg analyses revealed raised lead concentrations of up to 2550 μg/kg lead. Eggs from hens which have not been exposed to lead should contain very low concentrations of lead. Trampel and others (2003) reported yolk lead concentrations of <10 μg/kg in control hens, and confirmed that egg albumen was consistently <10 μg/kg in all hens. There are no set regulatory limits for lead residues in eggs. FSA decided to recall all eggs still in the distribution system. For financial reasons a decision was taken to cull the contaminated flock.
Case 2: Lead poisoning was confirmed in …