New advice on eating runny eggs

Infants, children, pregnant women and elderly people can now safely eat raw or lightly cooked eggs that are produced under the British Lion Code of Practice, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) says.

The announcement comes as the FSA revises its advice about eating eggs. Based on the latest scientific evidence, the revised advice means that people vulnerable to infection or who are likely to suffer serious symptoms from food poisoning can now safely eat raw or lightly cooked hen eggs or foods containing them.

The agency had previously advised that vulnerable groups should not consume raw or lightly cooked eggs, because eggs may contain salmonella bacteria which can cause serious illness.

The decision to change the advice is a result of the findings from an expert group that was set up by the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) in February 2015 to look at egg safety. Its report, published in July 2016, highlighted that the presence of salmonella in UK eggs has been dramatically reduced in recent years, and the risks are very low for eggs which have been produced according to food safety controls applied by the British Lion Code of Practice. More than 90% of UK eggs are produced under this scheme.

Heather Hancock, chairman of the FSA, says, “It’s good news that now even vulnerable groups can safely eat UK eggs without needing to hard boil them, so long as they bear the British Lion mark. The FSA has thoroughly reviewed the scientific evidence about the safety of these eggs, and we’re confident that we can now change our advice to consumers.

“The major reduction in the risk of salmonella in Lion eggs is testament to the work carried out by egg producers. The measures they’ve taken, from vaccination of hens through to improving hygiene on farms and better transportation, have dramatically reduced salmonella levels in UK hens.”

The British Free Range Egg Producers Association (BFREPA) welcomed the announcement, noting the egg sector has long argued that the guidance should be changed to reflect the steps that British Lion Code producers, packers and processors have taken to provide a perfectly safe product.

Robert Gooch, BFREPA’s chief executive, comments, “This is a huge development because there will be millions of consumers who may have been avoiding eating eggs because of many years of conflicting advice. But after today’s announcement no one can be left in any doubt as to the safety of British Lion Code eggs.

“The Code of Practice that the scheme operates has been developed over 20 years and is something that we should all be very proud of. We are pleased that the standards of production and food safety have been recognised and that all consumers can now feel 100% confident in eating our highly nutritious product.”

Responding to the news, Tony Lewis, head of policy at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, adds, “Whilst this is good news, we strongly urge consumers to look for the lion when considering whether eggs are safe to eat. Many eggs are imported into the UK that do not meet the British Lion Code of Practice, and are therefore not stamped with the lion mark.

“Our advice is that people should only consider eggs stamped with the lion mark to be safe to eat raw or lightly cooked. Eggs without the mark must still be thoroughly cooked before being eaten.”

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