October 21, 2018

Montana Legalizes Consumption of Roadkill: Bad Idea?

Montana has legalized the consumption of some types of roadkill. It joins more than a dozen other states, including Illinois and  Tennessee, which allow this practice; some states permit donating the carcasses to food banks. In Montana, you can eat roadkill as long as you get a permit from a state peace officer. The American Bar Association Journal has written about this topic and the public health concerns that go along with it.

Petri DishFred Pritzker, a prominent Minneapolis food safety lawyer, says this plan is not a good one. “Eating an animal killed by blunt-force trauma, with no information about its pre-existing health or provenance and with no information about how long it’s been dead or the conditions in which it’s been held since death, is a prescription for danger,” he said. “Animals are often sick with or carriers of pathogens such as E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella. “The longer one waits to dress and safely store once-fresh meat, the unhealthier it becomes,” Pritzker continued.

In addition, Pritzker does not like the idea of charitable organizations picking up or receiving wild animal carcasses. He states that is “highly discriminatory. It essentially says that if you’re poor and dependent on food banks, you should not expect the same level of food safety that the rest of us expect. Think about the risk of harm if the party harvesting the roadkill has no scientific training, has no safety systems, has no clean and safe environment to dress and store the meat. This is an absolute prescription for disaster.”

Wild animals can be sick with chronic wasting disease, various parasites, zoonotic diseases such as hantavirus and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, toxoplasmosis gondii, and ¬†pathogenic bacteria such as E. coli O157:H7. And since the animals are killed by blunt force, there’s a good chance the intestines and bladder have been ruptured, which would contaminate the flesh with pathogens. In addition, the internal damage caused by that blunt trauma leaves the flesh more susceptible to bacteria.

And what about temperature? In the summer, when temperatures in most states routinely climb over 100 degrees F, properly inspected, prepared, and cooked food is only safe out of refrigeration for one hour. An animal carcass, left on the hot pavement in the sun, would quickly be overrun with bacteria. If that meat is not cooked to 165 degrees F, anyone eating it will get sick. In addition, some bacteria produce toxins that are not destroyed by heat, especially when allowed to grow to large numbers.

Liability under the new law is questioned too. If a charitable organization serves roadkill and people get sick, who is liable? And peace officers aren’t qualified to inspect roadkill for safe consumption.

Comments

  1. Roadkill is put in some cheap commercial pet foods. Not something I would want to feed my dog. And I sure wouldn’t eat it myself, either.

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