FSA considering change in egg safety advice

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: Istock/studioaraminta. BEIC welcomed the consultation on the report
Picture: Istock/studioaraminta. BEIC welcomed the consultation on the report

Related tags Food Food standards agency United kingdom

An expert group set up to look at safety has found a reduction in the risk from Salmonella in UK shell eggs since its last report 15 years ago.

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has launched a consultation on the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) report looking at the safety of raw or lightly cooked eggs​.

Once comments are considered, and the report finalised by the ACMSF, the FSA will review its advice to vulnerable groups.

Advice on eating British Lion eggs runny

The ACMSF working group said the reduction in risk was ‘especially the case’ for eggs produced under the Lion Code scheme. 

Measures as part of this include: vaccination, a cool chain from farm to retail outlets, enhanced testing for Salmonella, improved farm hygiene, rodent control, independent auditing, date stamping and traceability. 

The group said the risk from non-UK eggs has also reduced but not to the same extent.

It suggests the risk level for UK shell eggs from hens produced under the Lion code scheme, or under demonstrably-equivalent schemes, can be regarded as very low, whilst for other shell eggs the risk level should be considered as low. 

The report recommends that Lion Code eggs, or eggs produced under equivalent schemes, can be served raw or lightly cooked to those in most vulnerable groups, including pregnant women, the young and the elderly. 

The FSA currently advises vulnerable groups against this for all eggs.

However, for those hens’ eggs in the ‘low’ risk group (UK produced non-Lion eggs, and non-UK eggs) the group said that existing advice should remain i.e. that the very young, the elderly, pregnant women, and those who are already unwell, should not consume these eggs raw or lightly cooked.

BEIC welcomes consultation

The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) urged the FSA to amend its official advice on ‘runny eggs’ following the 10-week consultation period.

Andrew Joret, BEIC chairman, said it has been confident for some time that the safety record of British Lion eggs means that vulnerable groups should be able to consume them when runny.

“The report is particularly relevant for mothers - we know that the current advice has meant that many women avoid eggs during pregnancy and weaning, yet health experts say that eggs are an important food for both mothers and babies,” ​he said.   

“Not only are they highly nutritious, but emerging research also suggests that eating eggs in both pregnancy and early in the weaning process is likely to help reduce the risk of the baby developing an egg allergy.

“We also know that many people in these groups, such as older people in care homes, would love to enjoy a traditional soft-boiled egg again.”

The ACMSF working group said consumers and caterers must be aware how to store eggs properly, observe use by dates, and avoid cross-contamination within the kitchen environment, particularly where contents will be eaten raw or lightly cooked.

It added that commercial egg products should continue to be pasteurised.

The consultation has been sent to Asda, Bakkavor, Brakes, British Egg Industry Council, Eurofins, Exova, FDF, IFR, IFST, Moy Park, Norpath Scientific, Premier Foods, Tesco, 2 Sisters Food Group, Westward Laboratories and many more.   

Comments on the draft report and its recommendations should be sent to the FSA by 1 May.

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