Venison Handling Safety

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Chronic Wasting Disease has not been detected in any Michigan deer, but Michigan Department of Agriculture officials say food establishments should take precautions when they're handling venison.

Officials recommend carcasses with hides be stored at 41 degrees or less. They also say food handlers should wear gloves when handling meat.

Although Chronic Wasting Disease, which affects the brains of deer, has not been a problem in Michigan, experts advise people to avoid contact with the deer's brain and spinal fluid. Plus, all heads, legs and other body parts should be incinerated or buried in a landfill.

For more recommendations for venison food handling log on to Extended Web Coverage

Chronic Wasting Disease

  • To date, chronic wasting disease has been found only in members of the deer family in North America. Animals include: Rocky Mountain Elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, and black-tailed deer.

  • There is ongoing research to explore the possibility of transmission of chronic wasting disease to other species.

Clinical Signs

  • Most cases of chronic wasting disease occur in adult animals.

  • The disease is progressive and always fatal.

  • The most obvious and consistent clinical sign of chronic wasting disease is weight loss over time.

  • Behavioral changes also occur in the majority of cases, including decreased interactions with other animals.

What Causes chronic wasting disease?

  • The agent responsible for chronic wasting disease has not been completely characterized.

  • There are three main theories on the nature of the agent that causes chronic wasting disease:
    • The agent is a prion, an abnormal form of a normal protein, known as cellular prion protein, most commonly found in the central nervous system.

    • The agent is an unconventional virus.

    • The agent is a virino, or "incomplete" virus composed of nucleic acid protected by host proteins. The chronic wasting disease agent is smaller than most viral particles and does not evoke any detectable immune response or inflammatory reaction in the host animal.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture contributed to this report.