Twenty-five years on from the Salmonella scandal, we look back at The Grocer’s leader article from 10 December 1988, which reflects on the role of the ‘forceful, controversial and insensitive Edwina Currie’…
The forceful, controversial and insensitive Edwina Currie should be the toast of the egg trade -not burnt to a crisp but fêted in champers. She has, with her customary ability to be counter-productive, managed to force the media to look at alternative arguments facing the public confronted with The Poisoned Egg Scandal.
When the Sun has a double page spread giving 20 reasons why eggs are OK, the tide may truly [be] thought to be turning, and when more and more programmers are understanding the risk factors (millions to one?) then it is the moment to lift the head over the ramparts.
Public confidence will be difficult to regain especially as egg producers have been forced to accept a nationally announced Government code of practice — which they say they had been following for years!
The London Food Commission has done a remarkably fine job in starting and sustaining one of the most successful hypes in the general campaigns to prove the food conspiracy is actively working.
Salmonella in chickens is common — and that fact is common knowledge. Proving the link between the egg and food poisoning is not easy — and the lack of information and causal effect not made easier because eggs are often eaten completely, and no evidence is left for examination.
A few outbreaks prove possibility, and from thence a suggestion of probability will inevitably gain strength as media attention increases and as more experts publicise more and more opinions.
There will also be more rigid testing of raw eggs — and it will not be surprising if the results tend to increase suspicions rather than allay them.
Public confidence will be difficult to regain especially as egg producers have been forced to accept a nationally announced Government code of practice — which they say they had been following for years! And worse, “tummy upsets” are rife, and anyone having eaten an egg will come to a conclusion…
There is one step the industry should take. The salmonella link is thought to be connected with the feed, much of which is not sterilized. Whether this be true or false is of little consequence, the perception is too strong to resist.
Christmas time is usually profit time in the egg trade. Prices go up with sales, but this yuletide, business will be cut back and prices depressed. It’s perhaps not the best time to introduce an expensive measure (a penny an egg?) to make more certain that what the chickens eat is safe — but the feed suppliers will also be facing turnover problems — and they might be in accommodating mood. The victory the London Food Commission should be given is sterilized feed.
Watch Edwina Currie’s Skype interview with The Grocer on the Salmonella crisis and the state of the egg trade today.