Since the beginning of the 21st century, consumption of wild game birds has been increasing, concurrent with a rise in consumer interest in free-range and 'healthy-eating' foodstuffs. Game birds can carry zoonotic pathogens, predominantly within the viscera. Whilst removal of the viscera is normal practice during the dressing of game birds, there is a specialised market in the UK for certain small game birds that are consumed uneviscerated. This qualitative risk assessment evaluates the risks to the consumer from the production and consumption of both uneviscerated and eviscerated small game birds for Salmonella spp., Escherichia coli (verotoxigenic), E. coli (antimicrobial resistant), Campylobacter spp., Toxoplasma gondii, Chlamydophila psittaci and Listeria monocytogenes. Whilst most pathogen/bird combinations were considered to have a very low risk, results suggest that Campylobacter spp. and T. gondii can pose an increased risk to consumers for some species of wild game birds. There was no greater risk associated with the consumption of uneviscerated game birds than for eviscerated birds. In some cases, the risk from eviscerated birds may even be slightly higher, as the risk of cross-contamination during evisceration can outweigh the reduction in pathogenic organisms due to removal of the viscera. Additionally, the current low frequency of consumption of uneviscerated game birds of most species reduced the overall risk estimate for these birds. If there is an increased frequency of consumption in the future, then this risk should be re-examined. Assuming a general level of compliance with regulations and basic hygiene practices, the results suggested that large outbreaks of infection among UK consumers are unlikely, but sporadic, infectious events could occur due to combinations of 'rare-event, hygiene-related issues' in the 'field-to-fork' chain and/or inadequate cooking of the bird.
- microbiological risk assessment
- game birds
- Toxoplasma gondii
- consumer infection