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Microbiological Risks from the Production and Consumption of Uneviscerated Small Game Birds Compared to Eviscerated Small Game Birds: A Qualitative Risk Assessment

Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA)
Start date
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A quantitative risk assessment was performed in order to assess the microbiological risks from the production and consumption of uneviscerated wild game birds.

The risk assessment considers nine game bird species:
  • snipe
  • woodpigeon
  • woodcock
  • mallard
  • teal
  • widgeon
  • grey partridge
  • red-legged partridge
  • quail

The risk to the consumer, from each species, was assessed for six pathogens that were considered to be of most concern to human health from consumption of small game birds. These were Campylobacter, Salmonella, Escherichia coli, Toxoplasma gondii, Chlamydophila psittaci and Listeria monocytogenes.

For each pathogen/species combination, four overall qualitative risk scores were estimated for the risk to individuals from consuming eviscerated birds in the home and outside the home; and consuming uneviscerated birds in the home and outside the home.

The risk assessment was carried out by considering the following points:
  1. Hazard Identification – assessment of all relevant hazards to identify the major microbiological hazards that current knowledge suggests will be of public health concern due to the production and/or consumption of wild game birds (not including occupational hazards)
  2. Release assessment – assessment of the prevalence and microbiological load of the identified hazards in both eviscerated and uneviscerated wild game birds throughout the processing chain. The main factors include the bird species (which ones are natural hosts and pose a higher risk of being infected than other species) and the pathogenic load per bird
  3. Exposure assessment – assesses the absolute risk of consumer exposure from contact with wild game birds for each hazard taking into account the pathways necessary for exposure of consumers to the hazard and the probability of the exposure occurring
  4. Consequence assessment – assessment of the relative risk to public health from both eviscerated and uneviscerated small game birds for all hazards identified. The absolute risk to public health from consumption of all species is assessed, to set in context the relative difference in risk between eviscerated and uneviscerated birds
More information

Background: The production and consumption of wild game birds is a major industry in Scotland. The wild game sector has evolved from a minority sport to a food production industry in its own right. Promotion by celebrity chefs, better marketing, the increasing use of farmers’ markets and mail order supply has meant that more people are now buying and eating wild game.

Removal of the viscera is normal practice in the production of game birds. However, there is a specialised market for the consumption of uneviscerated small game birds of certain species. Traditionally, birds such as woodcock and snipe have been cooked with their intestines intact and the viscera are often ingested as part of the final dish.

However, the viscera of birds infected with a pathogen may contain high concentrations of the organism. As a result, consumption of the viscera could put the consumer at a higher risk of infection than if eating an eviscerated bird.

Funding Source
Food Standards Agency
Project source
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Project number
Risk Assessment, Management, and Communication
Sanitation and Quality Standards
Bacterial Pathogens
Meat, Poultry, Game