Hunt deer despite chronic wasting disease

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The detection of chronic wasting disease in wild deer in several parts of Pennsylvania has some deer hunters wondering whether they should continue with their fall traditions, but a food safety specialist in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences urges them to carry on — but to take precautions.

“They can continue to enjoy deer hunting and be safe if they follow guidelines set by the Pennsylvania Game Commission,” said Martin Bucknavage, senior extension associate in food science, who teaches food safety strategies to industry professionals. “And, if they take a deer inside disease management areas in the state, they should have it tested for the disease before consuming venison.”

In Pennsylvania, CWD worries seem to be common among hunters this year just before the firearms deer season opens Nov. 30, he said. Many are asking whether venison is safe to eat.

In response, Bucknavage offers this:

  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that people do not eat meat from animals that test positive for CWD.

  Hunters should harvest only deer that appear healthy and take reasonable precautions, such as wearing gloves while field dressing and washing hands and equipment thoroughly.

Protect. Hunters in areas where CWD is known to exist should follow these guidelines:

  Do not shoot, handle or consume an animal that appears sick.

  Wear rubber or nitrile gloves when field dressing.

  Bone out the meat to remove high-risk parts such as brain, spinal cord, spleen, tonsils and lymph nodes.

  Avoid cutting into or through the backbone, either lengthwise or across the spine. Minimize the handling of brain and spinal tissues.

  Thoroughly clean hands and processing tools with soap and water, then sanitize tools in a solution of 50% household chlorine bleach and 50% water for one hour.

  Ask your deer processor to process your meat individually, or process your own meat.

  Have your animal processed in the area of the state where it was harvested so high-risk body parts can be disposed of properly. It is illegal to take high-risk parts out of any Pennsylvania Disease Management Area.

  Don’t consume high-risk parts.

  Have your animal tested, and do not consume meat from any animal that tests positive for the disease.

Information is available in the chronic wasting disease section of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s website at www.pgc.pa.gov/Pages/AlertDetails.aspx.

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