Italy Rejects Meat from Spain

Health - June 5, 2024

The control authorities have rejected wild boar fillets, of which Spain is one of the main exporters to the EU, because they were significantly contaminated with lead from hunters’ bullets.

The issue of Italy’s rejection of wild boar meat from Spain, due to its significant lead contamination, is a reflection of the complex dynamics involving public health, the food industry and the practice of hunting in the Union European. This episode has generated trade tensions and raised crucial questions regarding food safety and the environmental impact of hunting practices.

Italian authorities recently rejected shipments of wild boar meat from Spain, a major exporter of the product to the EU. This pushback was caused by high levels of lead detected in meat, resulting from the bullets used by hunters. Lead is a heavy metal harmful to human health, especially to children and pregnant women. Its ingestion can cause a number of health problems, including neurological and cardiovascular damage. Investigations conducted by the Spanish Food Safety Agency confirmed the contamination and highlighted the difficulties in removing all lead particles from the meat. Despite this, Spanish hunters have been reluctant to change the ammunition used when hunting, citing the high cost of lead alternatives.

According to EU regulations, the alarm is expected when lead levels exceed more than 100 times the maximum allowed in ammunition used for hunting. However, lead contamination can pose risks even at lower levels, especially considering accumulation over time and exposure to environmental sources of lead. This problem does not only concern Spain, but involves the entire European Union, since the Iberian country is the main producer and exporter of wild game meat. This pushback has highlighted the need to address the problem at a community level, with measures that can ensure food safety and the protection of public health.

However, not everyone agrees on the proposed solutions. While Spanish health authorities suggest limiting the use of lead ammunition in favour of less harmful alternatives, such as steel, copper or other alloys, hunters oppose this change, citing economic reasons. The issue also raises questions about the origin and traceability of game meat sold in Italy. While some of the meat comes from Eastern European countries, only a limited quantity can be considered Italian production, coming from controlled and certified game in the regions of Northern Italy. These products, marked with specific quality marks, represent a minority compared to imports from abroad.

The issue of lead in game meat highlights the need for greater awareness and regulation of hunting practices and sources of environmental contamination. It is important to find a balance between preserving the hunting tradition and protecting public health and the environment. Italy’s rejection of wild boar meat from Spain is just one symptom of a larger problem that requires a coordinated response at the European level. Food safety and public health protection must be priorities, while seeking to ensure that hunting practices are sustainable and environmentally friendly. It also raises questions about current policies and regulations regarding the use of lead in hunting ammunition. These regulations may need to be reevaluated and updated to ensure food safety and protect public health. This could involve reviewing the maximum allowable thresholds for lead in hunting ammunition and introducing tighter restrictions on the use of lead in certain environmentally sensitive areas.

Furthermore, lead contamination in game meat highlights the need for greater cooperation and information exchange between EU Member States. It is important that health and food authorities in various countries work together to effectively monitor and address public health risks arising from contamination from lead and other sources. The issue of the rejection of wild boar meat from Spain raises broader questions about the sustainability of hunting practices and the impact of the food industry on biodiversity and the environment.It is important to adopt wildlife management approaches and practices that are ecologically sustainable and take into account impacts on human health and animal populations.

Alessandro Fiorentino