The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has announced a change to its advice about eating eggs – now infants, children, pregnant women and elderly people can safely eat raw or lightly cooked eggs that are produced under the British Lion Code of Practice..
The decision to change the advice is a result of the findings from an expert group that was set up to look at egg safety. Dr Gary Barker from the Quadram Institute was a member of the group, contributing his expertise on risk assessment in the food chain.
The expert group found that the presence of Salmonella in UK eggs has been dramatically reduced by the British Lion scheme, and the risks are now very low. More than 90% of UK eggs are produced under this food safety scheme, identifiable by the familiar Lion mark.
The revised advice does not apply to severely immunocompromised individuals, who require medically supervised diets prescribed by health professionals, and is only for chicken eggs produced under the British Lion production according to the Code of Practice for Lion Grade eggs.
The FSA has been able to announce the change in guidance due to efforts to reduce a major cause of salmonella food poisoning, S. Enteridis bacteria. These were a particular problem as they can infect eggs internally before the shell forms. Cases of infection peaked in the late 1980s, but since then, vaccination, more stringent hygiene measures on farms, chilled transportation and improved testing and auditing have significantly reduced Salmonella levels in UK hens.
The Lion Mark demonstrates that eggs have been produced according to the British Lion Code of Practice, which specifies these measures and so are Salmonella free. Whilst this change in FSA guidance is very welcome news the Quadram institute is continuing its research into Salmonella in the food chain to improve food safety further.
Dr Rob Kingsley is studying Salmonella in the food chain, to learn more about how it is transmitted and infects humans. Many different strains occur naturally in the food chain, and these strains differ in their ability to infect humans.
Dr Kingsley is leading research projects that are using the latest genomic techniques to understand what makes some of these strains a risk to food safety, and from this we can design novel control measures that will prevent transmission to humans.
When eating raw or lightly cooked British Lion eggs, the FSA also recommends that you
- store eggs safely in a cool dry place such as the fridge;
- follow good hygiene practices in the kitchen: avoiding cross-contamination, cleaning work surfaces, dishes and utensils, and making sure you wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling eggs;
- observe ‘best before’ dates.