Poison residues in food animals

Poisons used to control possums and other pests are tightly controlled, but can inadvertently end up in some parts of the food chain. Find out how the risk of contamination is managed.

Tight controls on use of animal poisons

Poisons used to control animal pests are called vertebrate toxic agents. The main agents used in New Zealand are:

  • brodifacoum
  • cyanide
  • 1080.

Some poisons that affect blood clotting in animals, like brodifacoum, can be sold to the public for rodent control. These must be properly labelled.

Find out more

Managing the risks of poison residues

Laying poisons should be done in a manner to minimise exposure to non-target animals while targeting the pest animal. Product labels give clear directions on how to use poisons, including which poisons must be laid in bait stations. Signs must also be posted in areas where poisons have been laid.

Don't eat offal from wild-caught animals

Some poisons can concentrate in the liver and kidneys of wild animals. For this reason, offal from commercially hunted animals cannot be sold. We also advise recreational hunters not to eat offal from wild animals, or to feed it to dogs or other animals.

Risks from wild animals

Though there are no known cases of illness directly linked to eating contaminated wild animals, poison residues have been found in offal from wild pigs. Occasionally, wild pigs get access to baits, but more often they eat possums or rodents contaminated with the poison.

Poisons may remain in animals for long periods. Brodifacoum lasts months or even years in animals that it doesn't kill, and doesn't break down when meat is cooked.

Commercial hunting

Commercial hunting of wild animals is tightly controlled to ensure meat from these animals is fit for people to eat – including meeting residue requirements.

Commercial hunters must know where poisons are laid, and provide evidence that animals they supply are not from these areas – or areas within an animals' travelling distance from bait. MPI restricts commercial hunting in areas where the chance of contamination from poison residues is too high.

Commercial hunters and anyone commercially processing wild meats must also be certified.

Hunters or processors who supply animals contaminated with poisons can face penalties —including loss of certification and prosecution.

Find out more

Recreational hunting is not controlled

When you're hunting for recreation, you need to know where poisons have been laid and avoid hunting in those areas.

  • If hunting on private property, check with the property owner.
  • If hunting on Crown land, check Department of Conservation (DOC) pesticide summaries.

Minimise your risk when hunting

When out hunting, watch for signs warning of poisons in the area and obey caution periods and buffer zones.

  • A caution period is the time between when a poison is laid and when it is safe to take and eat wild animals from the area.
  • A buffer zone covers the area where poison has been laid, as well as the surrounding areas where wild animals are likely to travel. Do not hunt animals in this buffer zone.

Find out more about food safety while hunting:

Minimal health risk from farm animals

The risk of eating contaminated meat from farm animals is extremely low. Risks are managed through:

  • careful placement of poisons and stock management to ensure animals cannot get to poison
  • ante-mortem (pre-slaughter) and post-mortem checks of all animals sent to meat works. Unhealthy or unacceptable animals are not slaughtered for meat.

MPI routinely conducts random tests of meat from commercially farmed animals. None of these tests have detected any vertebrate toxic agent residues.

Who to contact

For more information on poison residues in animals, email info@mpi.govt.nz.

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