Lead Levels in Wild Boar Meat Sauce (Ragù) Sold on the Italian Market

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Apr 10;18(8):3989. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18083989.


Game meat is endowed with excellent nutritional value, but it may also be a possible source of harmful substances, such as mycotoxins and heavy metals. In particular, several studies showed that lead fragments from hunting ammunition are able to represent a residual contaminant in the meat of wild boars or deer, representing a possible source of lead absorption. Even though wild boar meat consumption in Italy is rather limited, this meat could also be present in very popular Italian recipes, such as the typical meat sauce called ragù. We evaluated the lead levels in 48 samples (three different batches for each of the 16 brands) of ready-to-eat wild boar meat ragù sold on the Italian market in food stores and online distribution with the inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) technique. A high variability was found in the lead levels detected in the samples, with a median lead level of 0.10 mg/kg (0.01-18.3 mg/kg) and some of the samples showing very high lead concentrations. Since no intake level of lead is considered completely safe, and maximum levels for game meat have so far not been established, a greater attention on the risks to consumers' health related to the presence of this heavy metal in game meat is recommended.

Keywords: ICP-MS; lead; meat; ragù; wild boar.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Deer*
  • Food Contamination / analysis
  • Italy
  • Lead / analysis
  • Meat / analysis
  • Sus scrofa*
  • Swine


  • Lead