The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) has launched an updated code of practice.

Version 8 of the Lion Code incorporates the latest scientific and veterinary advice and industry expertise. The British Lion Code of Practice is independently audited. Duck eggs are not included.

The revised document covers more than 700 audit points from Salmonella vaccination to traceability of hens, eggs, and feed. It includes enhanced sampling and testing, auditing, and enforcement, as well as updates to rodent control, on-farm and packing center protocols and the Lion training passport. Animal welfare standards are also highlighted.

Salmonella and fipronil incidents
Speaking at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) food safety conference, Andrew Joret, chairman of BEIC, said there had been several food safety issues related to eggs coming from Europe.

“In the UK, we have a tight egg supply, mainly because of cost pressures experienced by producers. We’ve seen Italian eggs on retail shelves. Normally, all retailers only stock Lion eggs. Imports tend to go into the food service sector. Currently, controls on imports are virtually non-existent on eggs and egg products, which is a major cause for concern. When investigating cases of Salmonella as environmental health officers consider travel abroad as many infections are acquired abroad,” he said.

“There have been issues with eggs from Sweden, Spain, France, Italy, and the Netherlands. We’ve also had chemical contamination; probably the biggest scandal was Fipronil. It was being used illegally, mainly in the Netherlands, but also in Belgium, to try and control red mites, which is an external pest of poultry. This led to an enormous withdrawal across the UK.”

BEIC sponsored the event along with the British Pest Control Association.

Joret gave an overview of how the Salmonella in eggs situation had changed since the 1980s, including the first Lion code of practice and vaccination. In 2017, the FSA changed its advice to say runny eggs with the British Lion mark were safe to eat for vulnerable groups.

Mark Williams, BEIC chief executive, said the introduction of the Lion Code in 1998 restored consumer confidence in British eggs.

“At a time when retail and wholesale companies are selling imported eggs due to the current temporary supply issues, it’s important that consumers know that British eggs, produced to unparalleled food safety standards, are available,” he said.

As the latest version of the Lion Code has just launched, UKAS approval should take three months, and audits against it are planned to start in September. An enhanced code of practice for the production of Lion Quality eggs products is also set to be launched soon.

Pasteurization and fraud issues
Joret said despite pasteurization, if there is a high bacterial load it is possible Salmonella may survive.

“Pasteurization regimes are designed to achieve a 5-log kill of Salmonella, which in most cases is more than sufficient. The liquid whole egg has to reach 64.5 degrees C (148 degrees F) for 150 seconds,” he said.

“Under the EU Salmonella directive, which still applies in the UK, if you have a Salmonella-positive flock, you are allowed to send that egg for heat treatment. However, egg pasteurizing plants in the UK will not accept eggs from known Salmonella-positive flocks. If you get a positive flock in the UK, that flock has to be slaughtered. The issue here is one of cross-contamination. If you try to pasteurize egg white to the point where you could guarantee killing Salmonella, you destroy the functionality so it can’t work in a meringue, for example. So the industry only heat treats egg white.”

Sterling Crew, president of the Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST), and chair of the Food Authenticity Network, said in previous roles as a retailer and food manufacturer, he insisted on British Lion eggs to give assurances to customers.

“The British Lion mark gives businesses and enforcement officers certainty that the eggs are safe, even if lightly cooked or raw. It is also a mark of quality, authenticity, provenance, biosecurity, and animal welfare standards.”

Joret said another problem is food fraud.

“A company that went bust had some surplus eggs packs that got into the wrong hands, and they were packed with eggs from Poland that were not Lion. Two frauds were going on here; the number 3 code on the eggs tells you the system of production; 0 is organic, 1 is free-range, 2 is a barn, and 3 is a cage. So they were cage eggs, not free-range, and the PL tells you they came from Poland.”

To access the updated Code, Lion registered sites should follow this link and submit their registration details.

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