BEIC welcomes consultation on ‘runny eggs’ report

The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) has welcomed the consultation announced today by the Food Standards Agency on the recent report on UK egg safety by the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF).  The BEIC is urging the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to amend its official advice  promptly following the 10-week consultation period.

The ACMSF report, published in January, concluded that British Lion eggs can safely be eaten runny, even by pregnant women, babies and elderly people and recommended that the Food Standards Agency (FSA) should consider amending its long-standing advice – that vulnerable groups should avoid raw or lightly cooked eggs - for eggs produced under the British Lion scheme or a demonstrably-equivalent comprehensive scheme.

‘We urge FSA to accept ACMSF’s risk assessment and recommendations, and update its advice to vulnerable groups as soon as possible after the consultation period,’ says BEIC Chairman Andrew Joret.

‘We have been confident for some time that the safety record of British Lion eggs means that vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, babies and elderly people 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.   

‘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.’

A specialist sub-group of the ACMSF conducted a year-long review to assess improvements in UK egg safety since the last review in 2001.   Its report acknowledged the ‘significant efforts’ undertaken by the UK egg industry to reduce Salmonella Enteritidis in laying flocks, which it says has made a ‘remarkable impact’ in reducing the levels of Salmonella Enteritidis infections in humans.’   It concluded that: ‘There has been a major reduction in the microbiological risk from Salmonella in UK hen shell eggs since the 2001 ACMSF report.  This is especially true for those eggs produced under the Lion Code, which comprises a suite of measures including: vaccination, a cool chain from farm to retail outlets, enhanced testing for Salmonella, improved farm hygiene, better rodent control, independent auditing, date stamping on the eggs and traceability.’

It considered that: ‘The very low risk level means that eggs produced under the Lion Code, or produced under demonstrably equivalent comprehensive schemes, can be served raw or lightly cooked to all groups in society, including those that are more vulnerable to infection, in both domestic and commercial settings, including care homes and hospitals.’