Egg soldiers, that traditional classic breakfast favourite of runny eggs and toast, are officially back on the menu today for pregnant women, infants and the elderly for the first time in almost 30 years after the salmonella crisis.
Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has issued revised advice saying vulnerable groups can now enjoy raw or lightly cooked eggs as long as they have the British Lion mark stamped on them.
The food watchdog said the new advice follows a year-long risk assessment by the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food and is the result of extensive food safety measures introduced within the British Lion Code of Practice since its launch in 1998.
A report published by committee in July last year said the presence of salmonella in UK eggs had been “dramatically reduced” in recent years, and the risks were “very low” for eggs which had been produced according to the British Lion code.
More than 90 per cent of UK eggs are produced under this scheme.
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.
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.
By early 1989 the link between eggs and salmonella poisoning was proved beyond doubt.
Dr Jacqui McElhiney, FSS head of food protection, science and surveillance, said it had been recognised for a number of years that the risk of salmonella had reduced significantly.
“The findings provide the assurance Food Standards Scotland needs to change its advice.
“Whilst healthy consumers can continue to enjoy all UK eggs any way they choose, it’s good news that children, pregnant women and the elderly can now safely eat their eggs soft boiled, runny or raw, as long as they’re stamped with the British Lion Code mark.
“It’s important to note though that this revised advice does not apply to the severely immunocompromised who require medically supervised diets.”
Robert Chapman, former chair of NFU Scotland’s poultry working group, and managing director of award-winning Farmlay Eggs in Strichen, Aberdeenshire, described the new advice as “fantastic news for the Scottish egg sector”.
“It has been a long, long time coming but this is welcome recognition of the hard work and effort put in by egg producers to tackle the threat of salmonella in their flocks.
“I hope this clean bill of health for all will encourage more Scottish consumers to put even more Scottish eggs in their shopping basket each week.”
Existing advice on UK eggs without the Lion mark, non-hen eggs and eggs from outside the UK is that they should always be cooked thoroughly for vulnerable people.”
Approximately 15.5 billion eggs were produced in the UK in the 12 months to August, including 1.5 billion from Scotland.
On top of this around 600 million eggs were imported.