At least 100 people have fallen ill in the past three years after eating British eggs, with almost half of them stricken this year.
Public Health England (PHE) has recorded 45 of the Salmonella patients in the United Kingdom this year, according to an investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) and newspaper The Guardian.
Health officials traced the outbreak to contaminated eggs and poultry farms but despite illnesses occurring for more than three years, the government has not issued any public warnings on the safety of hens’ eggs.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has since published precautionary egg safety and handling advice concerning one flock code due to Salmonella.
Three best before dates of British Lion Eggs with flock code 1UK11871 are affected. Eggs can be identified by the flock code and best before date stamped on each one. These dates are Sept. 22, 23 and 24, 2019.
“We are issuing precautionary advice to consumers who have purchased the eggs listed above to help avoid any potential, though low risk of illness. As a precaution, consumers are advised to cook these eggs thoroughly, as this will eliminate Salmonella,” said FSA officials.
The agency also advised the public to follow good hygiene and egg handling practices such as storing eggs in the fridge until use, using them by the best before date, cleaning surfaces and kitchen equipment effectively after use, and washing hands thoroughly before and after handling them.
The Bureau claimed internal records show that 25 egg-laying poultry flocks in the U.K. have tested positive for Salmonella this year. Seven were contaminated with strains including Enteritidis, the type behind the major outbreak. Two egg-packing factories — one of which supplies supermarkets — have also been contaminated.
Eggs from infected flocks were kept from sale and either sent for processing to kill the bacteria or disposed of, while the birds were culled. However, contaminated eggs reached the public despite the exact route being unclear.
The BIJ report claims an egg business that supplies supermarkets was among those contaminated. It says one of Fridays Ltd’s egg-packing factories was temporarily closed this year due to Salmonella, which was also found on three farms that supply the business. The company, which produces 10 million eggs a week, confirmed to BIJ that it had removed the farms from its supply chain and disinfected the factory.
Samples traced back to farms
The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) issued a statement after the findings were revealed saying the industry has the most stringent food safety standards in the world.
“As part of the U.K.’s National Control Programme and the British Egg Industry Council’s Lion scheme, premises are rigorously sampled and tested and, if Salmonella is found on any farm, those eggs cannot be sold for human consumption.
“Earlier this year, a small number of samples were traced back to a small number of farms in the South and a packing station, once they were identified, the British Egg Industry Council took immediate action to suspend the farms concerned and remove any eggs from the food chain. Since then, the British Egg Industry Council has introduced additional, enhanced testing and auditing to minimize the risk of it happening again.”
All eggs with the British Lion mark have been produced under requirements of the British Lion Code of Practice. More than 90 percent of U.K. eggs are produced under this mark, which was launched in 1998.
The code covers the production chain and guarantees all hens are vaccinated against Salmonella Enteritidis and Typhimurium and includes a ‘passport’ system ensuring all hens, eggs and feed are traceable.
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