HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank has stopped accepting deer meat over concerns of chronic wasting disease.
Hunters Sharing the Harvest, which donates thousands of pounds of deer meat every year, says the move is unprecedented.
“In 30 years of operating this program, this has never popped up before,” said John Plowman, executive director of Pennsylvania Hunters Sharing the Harvest
Plowman says food safety is a priority to his organization.
“Any deer that’s to be donated, coming into the food bank program, they go through our inspected butcher shop network in Pennsylvania,” Plowman said.
The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank is one of the 21 regional food banks they work with and one of 5,000 food assistance organizations in the state that count on venison donations.
“Our butchers count on them picking up the meat as they have it available, and all that came to a grinding halt without any advanced warning,” Plowman said.
Since 2012, 291 deer in Pennsylvania have tested positive for CWD, out of 1.4 million deer in the state.
“To date, there have been no known cases of chronic wasting disease affecting humans, or livestock for that matter,” said Courtney Colley, the CWD communication specialist for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
The game commission has three disease management areas where hunters need to take precautions.
“If you harvest a deer within Pennsylvania’s disease management area, you can get your deer head tested for free by submitting the head of your deer in one of our head collection containers,” Colley said.
After meeting with a task force of state agencies earlier this week, Plowman says more precautions could be taken.
“Some hunters will want to donate deer from a CWD-certified area, one of the three, and we’re leaning towards setting up a whole new criteria where any deer to be donated will be tested first,” Plowman said.
Colley says while there have been no reported cases humans being infected with CWD, they recommend not eating any deer that has tested positive for the disease.