Recent food safety news in Northern Ireland has focused on the escalation of the practice of deer poaching.

The deer is then sold to members of the catering industry who have decided to make their purchase although they should appreciate the potential health risks that the incorrect and unprofessional handling of the carcasses presents.

The money to be earned from deer poaching has proved a primary motivator, carcasses are worth between £70-£200 to the poacher when sold on. Poaching delivers a tidy profit but no sense of responsibility or conscience. The venison being served to diners introduces risks in to the human food chain.

To counter the activity, Northern Ireland police have set up patrols and Operation Wild Deer to catch poachers and prevent devastating ramifications. These could also be human injury or death caused by poachers’ guns being fired in the dark, a hugely risky practice, without adding the food contamination risks in to the scenario.

It’s common for poachers to, “…butcher a shot deer on site but hang the carcass in a tree overnight so that they can return the following day to pick it up.”

Ed McDonald from the Food Standards Agency believes that the venison would not have been “handled, stored or transported hygienically.” This may seem obvious but the stock is still finding buyers.

Of course, poaching is not solely in Northern Ireland, the length and breadth of the British Isles there are opportunists who will seek to sell poached meat but every food outlet should refuse to handle what is, in high probability, mishandled and prey to food contamination items.

If posed with the conundrum consider that the food would not withstand food safety tests, the food hygiene levels would be abominable and that any eatery that serves contaminated food which leads to a public health incident will be heavily penalised, perhaps closed by a damaged reputation or fines.

A poacher may offer a tempting price for meat but they deliver a raft of consequences. That’s a heavy burden for the restaurant or pub and not for the poacher. Is it ever worth the risk? No, never.

If you can’t vouch for the stock, you’re placing your consumers at risk.  They trust you.

If you, or your team members, are in any way uncertain of the food safety obligations then please seek professional instruction through a specialist training firm like Food Alert in London. They offer food hygiene courses at all levels of employment and courses are online and in classroom environments.

Example: Food hygiene course – Level 2 (GCSE equivalent) Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) accredited.

  • Food safety.
  • Food handling.
  • Hygiene hazards.
  • Safe food storage.
  • Refrigeration, chilling and cold holding.
  • Cooking, hot holding and reheating.
  • Temperature control.
  • Food premises and equipment.

In catering, ignorance is not bliss, excuses won’t be brooked and a poacher will never take the blame for poisoning your clients. If stock wouldn’t pass a food safety test it shouldn’t be bought or served.

Educate your team away from risks today.