Sainsbury’s are still avoiding answering questions about the presence of toxic lead ammunition in game products that they sell to their customers, see here, here and here. I’ve been a bit slow in following this up, but I have done today. One statement that is particularly interesting from the reply I got on the 25th January, is that Sainsbury’s does not sell an own branded game product. Really? On a recent visit to a local store this product exclusive to Sainsbury’s and sold under their Taste the Difference range was on sale (maybe they don’t consider venison as game unless it is sold as mixed game casserole?):

Venison images

It doesn’t fill me with confidence that the customer service executive who is dealing with my case is taking this seriously. To be fair, I’ve also send two letters to Simon Roberts the CEO, and neither of those have received a reply either.

Here’s a recap of the questions I’ve asked over the last two and half months which have evolved over the course of 10 emails and 2 letters! My interpretation of their answers is in bold

1) Can you assure customers, ie me, that there is no toxic lead derived from ammunition in any of the game meat products that you sell in your stores, both Sainsbury’s branded and non-branded products? Please speak to Holme Farm Venison as we take no responsibility for what we sell our customers. We don’t sell own brand game, even though we do!

2) What due diligence have you done to ensure that the British Game Alliance have in place robust criteria that meet the standards expected of Sainsbury’s? Please speak to Holme Farm Venison as we take no responsibility for what we sell our customers. We haven’t done any due diligence on this product or certification scheme.

3) Why do you carry a warning that the product may contain shot but don’t mention the word lead? Sainsbury’s have given a rather vague (and standard) answer to this – “lead shot is being phased out, but is still in use, however HFV products only select from meat that has no shot in it. Initially, the meat is visually inspected and then metal detected at the processing site and again visually inspected in the final pack. There are additional warnings on pack that refer to shot to ensure customers are aware of the very small risk that shot may be present.”

4) This use of the phrase ‘may be present’ led me to ask a follow up question that if the procedures in place by Holme Farm Venison were so robust why would you still carry a warning that it may contain shot? Sainsbury’s answered this as follows – “In relation to your statement on “may contain” – it is common for statements like this to be put on products even where there is a minimal chance of shot being present. This is similar to Sainsbury’s brand boneless products, where we would put a warning “may contain bone” due to the very small risk of bone being present in the product. It is intended to highlight this to the customer, whilst not expecting bones to be present.”

4) Why do you state ‘shot’ and not ‘lead shot.’ No attempt to answer this straightforward question so I interpret this as we don’t want our customers to be aware that there is a risk of a well-known toxic substance unnecessarily added to this food product.

5) Are Sainsbury’s happy to sell products, branded or not, that may contain toxic lead that may be consumed by pregnant women and young children? (I’m assuming that Sainsbury’s are aware of the advice of the Food Standards Agency regarding lead in game meat?). No attempt to answer this question so I take it that Sainsbury’s don’t think it is important to inform those customers most at risk from ingesting a well-known toxic substance are suitably informed. It isn’t clear if Sainsbury’s are aware of the advice of the Food Standards Agency – if they are aware of the advice then they are not passing this on to their customers. If they are not aware of that advice then they should be.

6) You’re clearly not too concerned about supplying products that may unnecessarily contain toxic lead from ammunition. Is this correct? No answer. Says it all really.


Photo credit: Header image by Dr Ruth Tingay