MasterChef_logoMasterChef on the BBC reached the quarter final stage last week apparently. I don’t watch the programme but I was sent two emails asking me if I’d seen it – “they’re doing game meat and a guy gets a mouthful of lead shot!”

Contestants had to produce “one dish showcasing Game” – a challenge set by restaurant critic, William Sitwell. Three contestants went for venison dishes and three for grouse. (I have to say the venison in parmesan crust did sound and look delicious).

One contestant, Lisa, prepared a crown of grouse, served with offal bonbons, braised red cabbage, game chips, chanterelle mushrooms, granola and a port jus. The standard format is after the dish is prepared, the judges take a mouthful and pass comment on how good or bad the dish is. William Sitwell takes a forkful of mainly grouse and almost immediately spits out two nice lumps of lead shot. “Bit of shot. I don’t mind the fact that there were two lead shot in my mouth, because that’s the reality. These grouse were shot.”

Now, to me that seems a rather dismissive comment to make on prime-time TV, when a dish is served up that is contaminated with toxic lead shot. There was no explanation that lead is toxic and should be avoided – no, it was just dismissed as seemingly normal. This is despite the fact that the Food Standards Agency issues advice on the consumption of game meat. In the advice one of the opening sentences is this – “anyone who eats lead-shot game should be aware of the risks posed by consuming large amounts of lead, especially children and pregnant women.”

MasterChef_leadshot“It’s embarrassing, I did check to try and remove all the shot. You don’t want William Sitwell spitting out shot from your gamebird,” said the unfortunate contestant – I guess that’s the game of Russian roulette you play when you are dealing with an ingredient that has been shot with toxic lead ammunition. We’re often told that lead shot is removed in the butchering process. Clearly not the case here, it was missed by the game dealer/butcher and the chef – fortunately the ‘customer’ found it before ingesting the toxic substance.

Of course we don’t know what other substances were in any of the grouse that were used in the show, see here for some possibilities.

This programme is downloadable from iPlayer for a month. The key lead scenes are 21.40 minutes into the programme.

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