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Lower Salmonella rate results in new U.K. advice on raw eggs

Benefits of eating raw or lightly cooked eggs from British hens now exceed the risks, according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) for the United Kingdom.

Therefore, FSA has changed its official advice, which previously warned infants, children, pregnant women and the elderly against eating eggs that had not been thoroughly cooked.

The revised advice, based on a 182-page report by the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food, means people vulnerable to infection or who are more likely to contract food poisoning can safely eat certain raw or lightly cooked eggs or foods made with them.

Only eggs with the “British Lion” mark have the all clear from FSA.

In all of its previous history, FSA has advised that vulnerable groups should not consume raw or lightly cooked eggs, because eggs can relatively easily become contaminated with Salmonella bacteria, which can cause serious illnesses.

The decision announced yesterday to change the advice is a result of a new review of egg safety measures and a dramatic reduction in U.K. Salmonella levels. More than 90 percent of U.K.-produced eggs fall under the safety controls of the British Lion Code of Practices

“It’s good news that now even vulnerable groups can safely eat U.K. eggs without needing to hardboil them, so long as they bear the British Lion mark,” said Heather Hancock, who chairs the FSA. “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 a 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 U.K. hens.”

A range of interventions have been put in place across the food chain as part of the Lion code, including vaccinating hens, enhanced testing for salmonella, improved farm hygiene, effective rodent control, independent auditing, traceability, and keeping the eggs cool while transporting them from farm to store.

Exceptions to the revised advice
The revised advice does not apply to severely immunocompromised individuals, who require medically supervised diets prescribed by health professionals, such as cancer patients and organ transplant recipients.

The FSA’s new advice only applies to eggs with the British Lion mark.

Previous advice on U.K. non-Lion eggs, non-hen eggs, and eggs from outside the U.K., is that they should always be cooked thoroughly for vulnerable groups.

Consumer advice
When eating raw or lightly cooked eggs, FSA recommends:

  • Store eggs safely in a cool, dry place such as the refrigerator;
  • Follow good hygiene practices in the kitchen; avoiding cross-contamination, by cleaning work surfaces, dishes and utensils and making sure you wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling eggs
  • Observe best-before dates.

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