Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Defends Decision to Destroy Donated Deer Meat, Says It Was ‘Potentially Unsafe’
One day after we reported the news that the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospital had destroyed $8,000 worth of deer meat that was donated by hunters to feed homeless citizens, the group has released a statement defending their decision.
On the Department of Health and Hospitals' official Facebook page, a lengthy explanation on why the deer meat was destroyed was posted today.
We have received several inquiries here about our recent health inspection in Shreveport and wanted to address those concerns. The Department of Health and Hospitals protects the public's health, and enforces the law (State Sanitary Code) to ensure safe food is served in restaurants, grocery stores, shelters and other places. We apply the same rules to all retail food establishments in Louisiana and afford the same protections to all members of the public.
In January, we received a complaint about deer meat being served at Rescue Mission in Shreveport. Our health inspectors investigated promptly and discovered Rescue Mission did have deer meat obtained from hunters, and deer meat is not permitted to be served in a shelter, restaurant or any other public eating establishment in Louisiana. Although the meat was processed at a slaughterhouse (Bellevue) that is permitted by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture to prepare and commercially distribute meat obtained from approved farms, deer are not an approved meat source to be distributed commercially. And because hunters brought the deer to the slaughterhouse, there is no way to verify how the deer were killed, prepared or stored. All of those factors present potentially harmful situations that could cause serious or even fatal foodborne illnesses. Because the meat was potentially unsafe, our health inspectors ordered it destroyed, in accordance with the law. Bleach was poured over the meat as an extra precaution so that animals would not eat it from the dumpster and become sick or die. This is a process called “denaturing,” which is standard procedure for these situations.
While we applaud the good intentions of the hunters who donated this meat, we must protect the people who eat at Rescue Mission, and we cannot allow a potentially serious health threat to endanger the public. The State Sanitary Code laws exist to protect all residents of our state, and while sometimes these laws may not be popular, they allow us to ensure the public's health and safety, and must be followed. If you would like to learn more about the State Sanitary Code or what health inspectors are responsible for in Louisiana, I encourage you to visit www.eatsafe.la.gov to learn more.
The destroyed deer meat had been donated by local sportsmen group, Hunters For The Hungry, with the understanding it would go to feed the homeless via the Shreveport-Bossier Rescue Mission.
Shortly after the story broke, the Department of Health and Hospitals' Facebook page was mysteriously unavailable. Today, the group explained that it had pulled the page following an onslaught of criticism by angry Louisianians:
Yesterday, we had to temporarily disable our Facebook page because some users were posting comments containing profanity and other unacceptable language. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused. While we appreciate being able to use this page as a medium to communicate with the public, we ask all users to keep in mind that this is a public page, and therefore all comments must be appropriate. We reserve the right to ban, block or report any users who do not comply with these guidelines. Thank you for your cooperation and your interest in DHH's social media.
One thing's for certain: Kiss Country listeners let their voice be heard loud and clear on our own Facebook page, with most folks unhappy with how the governmental agency had handled the situation.
"Wasted game, I hope everyone raises hell!" said one aggravated commenter. Another asked, "Did they do any test to prove the meat was or wasn't contaminated?"
Commenters on the DHH's Facebook page were equally incensed, with one sarcastically writing, "Definitely better to let the poor starve than risk the almost infinitesimally small risk of a bout of diarrhea."