Egg assurance scheme Laid in Britain has hit out at the FSA after its updated guidelines deemed only British Lion eggs as safe for vulnerable groups to eat when raw or lightly cooked.
The FSA updated its guidelines on runny egg consumption last week, but said UK-laid non-Lion eggs, non-hen eggs and eggs from outside the UK should always be cooked thoroughly for vulnerable groups due to continuing fears over salmonella contamination.
However, eggs produced under the Laid in Britain scheme were just as safe, claimed secretary David Spackman, who urged the FSA to reconsider its advice.
In addition to vaccination programmes and regular hygiene audits specified by the Lion code of practice, Laid in Britain requires all chickens to be fed a probiotic formula of 2,000 different bacteria, which line the gut and impede the growth of salmonella.
“Since its introduction 17 years ago, not a single egg produced under the Laid in Britain brand has been found to be contaminated with salmonella,” Spackman said.
“The FSA has failed to do its due diligence in not allowing other assurance programmes to prove that they are just as safe. We represent smaller suppliers who can’t afford Lion accreditation. The only difference is that our eggs aren’t packed centrally and we feed our birds an exclusion product.”
In a statement, Laid in Britain said: “The FSA, Defra and countless retailing organisations have always accepted the Laid in Britain scheme at least equal to all other assurance schemes. It is quite wrong that a supposedly independent body should give bias to a commercial operation without exploring the viability of other, similar organisations.”
Eggs produced under the British Lion standard represent the lion’s share of UK egg production, with more than 95% of the retail egg market regulated by the scheme. Laid in Britain suppliers make up about 1.5% of the UK market - approximately 155 million eggs in 2016 - with its farmers supplying Asda, Lidl and Aldi as well as smaller, independent retailers.
In response to the accusations, the FSA said: “Producers under the Lion code operate a range of measures that results in a ‘very low risk’ as opposed to ‘low risk’ status.
“We are currently looking at ways to assess other schemes and would welcome further discussions with Laid in Britain on how we can assess the equivalency of its scheme to the Lion code. Our aim is to be able to extend the consumer advice to include other UK schemes as we fully appreciate the important role played by these producers in local supply chains.”
The FSA’s stance changed on 11 October following the publication of guidelines by the government’s Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food last July, which proposed to relax 15-year-old advice for vulnerable groups to avoid eating runny and raw eggs due to the threat of contracting salmonella.