Mixed reports on safety of eating northern Alberta game

Eating moose meat or deer meat near Alberta's oilsands developments might be less risky than thought.

Eating moose meat or deer meat near Alberta's oilsands developments might be less risky than thought.

A study done last year for the oil company Suncor found arsenic levels in moose meat around the oilsands that were 453 times higher than the acceptable limits in terms of cancer risk.

But a newstudy done by Alberta Health has found the risk from eating the meat is much lower, with theincreasedthreat of cancer dropping to somewhere between 17 and 33 times the acceptable level.

Atthe same time, the newer study found all wild meat may have unacceptably high levels of the cancer-causing toxin.

Alberta Health researchers collected samples of moose and deer meat from around Edmonton, the Yukon and northern Alberta, including around Fort McMurray. They found similar arsenic levels in all the samples.

Alex MacKenzie, a spokesmanwith Alberta Health, saidthat ispositive news for people in northern Alberta.

"The moose meat that they have access to is not of a quality or of a nature as it relates to arsenic exposure that's different from people who live and use traditional food in the Yukon."

MacKenzie saidit's hard to say if wild meat is completely safe to eat.

"There isn't now, nor has there ever been an ongoing program that is directed at determining the absolute quality of the food that is running around in the wild."

Don't scare people away from traditional foods: researcher

Arsenic occurs naturallyin the environment and that's how it may be entering the food, MacKenzie says.

Aresearcher who has studied toxins in wild meat for 15 years believes Alberta Health's standards are too strict when deciding how much arsenic people can safely consume.

"You could be unnecessarily scaring people away from traditional foods, which is not a good thing," said Yukon-based researcher Mary Gamberg.

Eating the meat would be considered completely safe if Alberta Health adopted the same standards the World Health Organization uses for arsenic consumption, Gambergsaid.