After performing its own series of tests over the past weekend, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources has announced that food pantries in the state may resume serving and distributing venison donated by hunters to the state’s HUSH (Help Us Stop Hunger) program.


In testing 10 samples of ground venison, the University of Iowa Hygienic Laboratory found that all 10 samples had less than 1 part per million of lead, eight had no detectable amounts, and two had only trace amounts.

“Based on the samples that were analyzed and the extensive data currently available through blood testing of Iowans by our department, no additional tests of the venison are necessary,” said Ken Sharp, director of the environmental health division of the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH).

The findings will undoubtedly raise more questions over the action taken by authorities in North Dakota last week, where between 4,000 and 5,000 pounds of donated venison was destroyed based on the results of a report alleging that a high percentage of the meat contained lead particles. The report was issued by Dr. William Cornatzer, a Bismarck, N. Dakota professor of dermatology and an outspoken critic of ammunition containing lead.

Dr. Cornatzer claimed that he discovered lead residuals in 60 percent of the donated ground venison he ran through a CT scan.

Based on Cornatzer’s announcement and N. Dakota’s action, venison programs in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin announced they would halt distribution of meat until testing could be performed.


Armed with their own, science-based results, Iowa health and HUSH program officials are confident that the venison donated by hunters is safe for consumption—something that hunting and shooting groups have been saying since the controversy first made headlines a week ago.

“This is a question we have never encountered before. We wanted to do the sampling so that we would have confidence that the venison is safe,” said Ross Harrison, coordinator of the HUSH program for DNR.

Harrison said he is pleased that distribution of the venison can now continue.

“One of Iowa’s most valuable natural resources is its deer herd. This testing confirms what we have believed all along that donated venison can be a valuable contribution to the health of needy Iowans,” said Harrison.