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Officials to discuss lead in venison

Officials from several states will meet in Minnesota today to discuss the potential health effects of lead-contaminated wild game.

North Dakota Game and Fish Director Terry Steinwand plans to attend the Bloomington, Minn. meeting and help determine how to deal with the potential issue, especially in regards to donations of the meat to food panties.

"The questions we're going to be dealing with is how best to deal with your game," Steinwand said. "Every one of us wants to keep these food pantry programs going."

The issue arose in late March when Dr. William Cornatzer of Bismarck alerted North Dakota state health officials of an independent study he had conducted on 100 samples of venison he collected from food pantries in the state.

State health officials responded by instructing food pantries throughout the state to throw the venison they had in their freezers out.

Currently, the state health department and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are studying whether there are health risks for people who eat the meat.

Steinwand said himself and a few other Game and Fish employees participated in the study by donating blood for analysis.

"I consider myself probably the average North Dakotan in that I do eat venison that we shoot," Steinwand said. "Basically what we've said before is if you've taken reasonably good care of your venison you should be safe."

The meeting will be attended by wildlife officials and others from the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota. Steinwand said Michigan is invited, but he isn't sure if they will attend.

Steinwand said the group will most likely discuss the issue and come up with some guidelines to instruct hunters and meat processors on how to deal with wild game.

In the end, Steinwand would like to see venison once again be a viable option for donation to those food pantries so the people that need it can access it.

"Being the Game and Fish director I'd like to see things go back to the way they were," Steinwand said. "Whether or not that will happen, I don't know at this point."