While eating wild deer, pig, shellfish or watercress carries risk of contamination, you can’t go wrong with huhu grubs, says a new study. Environmental, bacterial and viral contaminants are risks associated with eating many wild animals and some plants, the Environmental Science and Research study says.
The report, which formed part of the Food Safety Authority review into wild foods, says that, overall, eating such foods does not pose a “major risk”, but it warns that there is a lack of reliable data.
Shellfish are deemed the riskiest seafood, followed by kina and lobster, which are all implicated in cases of salmonella and campylobacter.
More worrying are the seven norovirus outbreaks – affecting nearly 60 people – linked to oysters. Hepatitis A has been linked with 14 instances of shellfish consumption.
Policy director Carole Inkster said the authority was asking for submissions to help gather more data.
“Information gaps are the biggest hurdle. We don’t know with certainly where the problems are.”
The report says that, because of its popularity, watercress poses a risk, but limited data makes evidence inconclusive.
Nearly all watercress samples taken from 11 Wellington streams – five of which were used for commercial sale – contained lead and E.coli. Campylobacter was present in 11 per cent of samples and traces of arsenic were also found.
The report concludes that huhu grubs, which develop from larvae in rotting native timber, are low-risk because of their limited exposure to chemical pollutants.
Other plants, such as ferns and native herbs, are also included in this category because of limited pollutant risks.
Ms Inkster said wild foods in their pure form were mostly safe. It was their contact with poisons or other contaminants that was the problem.
Wild pig and deer were also deemed risky because of their popularity with hunters and their exposure to salmonella, campylobacter and chemical poisons such as 1080.
The report highlights poisoning risks. Between 1997 and 1999, 67 people were admitted to hospital after eating wild berries and 26 people were admitted after consuming fungi.