Runny eggs finally declared safe after salmonella crisis


A report by the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) found the presence of salmonella in British eggs has "dramatically reduced" in recent years.

Officials said improved vaccinations for hens and better cleanliness on farms had dramatically reduced salmonella levels in United Kingdom hens.

The Food Standards Agency has now given the thumbs up to runny eggs, but at-risk groups should avoid them if they're imported.

For nearly 30 years those vulnerable to infection have been advised against soft-boiled eggs for fear they could contain salmonella bacteria.

In December 1988 Edwina Currie, MP, health minister, provoked outrage in the farming industry after she claimed that most of Britain's egg production was affected by salmonella bacteria.

FSA chairwoman Heather Hancock said: "It's good news that now even vulnerable groups can safely eat United Kingdom eggs without needing to hard-boil them, so long as they bear the British Lion mark".

By early 1989, the link between eggs and salmonella poisoning was proved beyond doubt and pregnant woman were told to avoid under-cooked eggs.

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Ms Currie had to resign two weeks later as egg sales plummeted and the government had to offer a compensation package of millions of pounds to farmers to offset the costs of killing two million unwanted hens and buying surplus eggs. 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.

Andrew Joret, chairman of the British Egg Industry Council, which runs the British Lion scheme, said the advice is a success story for the 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".

However, it said severely immunocompromised individuals who need medically supervised diets should still cook eggs thoroughly.

Last year, hens in the United Kingdom laid 10,372 million eggs, while on average would consume more than 34.5 million eggs every day. 'Improving hygiene on farms'Today's announcement follows two decades of vaccination programmes and improved hygiene in farms which has virtually rid salmonella from British eggs.

Egg consumers should still be mindful of best before dates and storing eggs in cool, dry places.