Boiled egg

The FSA has confirmed plans - first outlined last year - to change its advice on runny egg consumption.

It said today (11 October) that infants, children, pregnant women and elderly people could now safely eat raw or lightly cooked eggs produced under the British Lion Code of Practice.

The new advice follows 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 bacteria.

The Committee found that eggs produced to British Lion or equivalent standards, now posed a “very low” risk to health.

“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,” said FSA chairman Heather Hancock. “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 was “testament to the work carried out by egg producers”, Hancock added. “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.”

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

The FSA said the revised advice did not apply to “severely immunocompromised individuals”, who require medically supervised diets prescribed by health professionals, while the existing advice for non-Lion eggs, non-hen eggs and eggs from outside the UK, is that they should continue to be cooked thoroughly for vulnerable groups.

The announcement was welcomed by the British Egg Industry Council’s chairman Andrew Joret, who said the change in policy represented a “success story” for the UK egg industry.

“We know that the previous advice has deterred many women from eating eggs when pregnant, and from giving them to their babies, as well as denying older people the pleasure and nutritional benefits of a ‘dippy egg’ and home-made mousses and mayonnaise,” he said.

“The advice is particularly good news for these groups and will also enable care homes to put many traditional egg dishes back on their menus.”