Shreveport, LA (NBC 33) — An annual donation drive in Shreveport ended with controversy after the Department of Health and Hospitals forced a shelter to throw out a huge donation of meat.
The agency made workers throw out over 1,600 pounds of deer meat, which is valued at roughly $8,000. They say they were then forced to douse the deer meat in Clorox bleach before disposing of it.
Hunters and officials at the Shreveport-Bossier Rescue Mission homeless shelter are upset because all the venison was donated in an annual drive by the non-profit organization Hunters for the Hungry. The group says they are working with several agencies to ensure that this issue doesn’t happen again in the future.
The Department of Health and Hospitals issued the following statement on Thursday, Feb. 21 regarding the issue:
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.