It follows a report by the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) that found there has been a reduction in the risk from Salmonella in UK shell eggs since the issue was looked at 15 years ago.
ACMSF said UK eggs produced under the Lion Code can be served raw or lightly cooked to vulnerable groups, such as young children, the elderly and pregnant women but the advice does not include severely immunocompromised individuals.
The Lion Code quality assurance scheme includes measures such as vaccination for Salmonella Enteritidis and Typhimurium, a cool chain from farm to retail outlets, enhanced testing, farm hygiene, rodent control, independent auditing, date stamping on each egg and traceability.
Current and proposed advice
Current FSA advice is that eating raw eggs, eggs with runny yolks or any food that is uncooked or only lightly cooked and contains raw eggs, may cause food poisoning and warns vulnerable groups against having them.
The FSA would continue to advise that raw, soft boiled hen eggs or foods containing lightly cooked hen eggs are unlikely to lead to illness in people in good health.
However, it would no longer advise against consumption of raw and lightly cooked eggs by vulnerable groups, provided they are produced under the Lion Code Quality Assurance Scheme.
Existing advice on non-hen shell eggs (e.g. duck and quail eggs), which should not be consumed raw or lightly cooked, will not change.
The FSA sought the group’s advice as to whether the risk to consumers, including vulnerable groups, from eating lightly cooked or raw shell eggs has changed since 2001.
Salmonella reduction and risk level
Professor John Coia, chair of the ACMSF expert ad hoc group on eggs, said it found there has been a major reduction in the risk from Salmonella in UK hens’ eggs.
“This is especially the case for eggs produced under the Lion Code, or equivalent schemes. It also recommended that these eggs could be served raw or lightly cooked to both those in good health and those in more vulnerable groups.”
The group concluded the risk level for UK hen shell eggs produced under the Lion code, or demonstrably-equivalent schemes, should be considered as very low, whilst for other hen shell eggs, including non-UK eggs consumed in the UK, the risk level should be considered low.
The FSA added it will issue advice for catering sites on egg handling and hygiene practices in the future.
It is also looking at how UK egg producers which are not part of the Lion Code Assurance Scheme can demonstrate an equivalent level of food safety control.
Comments on the proposed change to consumer advice should be submitted to the FSA by Friday 16 September.
Andrew Joret, chairman of the British Egg Industry Council, which runs the British Lion scheme, said: “We welcome the confirmation of the findings of this important report and urge the FSA to accept ACMSF’s risk assessment and recommendations, and to update its advice to vulnerable groups as soon as possible.”