Runny eggs declared safe during pregnancy and infancy

After more than a quarter of a century, the Food Standards Agency says that pregnant women and babies will finally be able to return to eating runny eggs – as long as they have the British Lion stamp on

The new advice follows the publication of a detailed review by government food safety advisors, concluding the major reduction in risk from UK eggs in recent years meant that the FSA should amend its long-standing advice. Since 1988’s salmonella scare, the agency has instructed vulnerable groups to avoid eating raw or lightly cooked eggs for fear of contracting the disease.

The new advice follows a year-long review by a specialist sub-group of the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) to assess improvements in UK egg safety. The report acknowledged the ‘significant efforts’ undertaken by the UK egg industry to reduce Salmonella Enteritidis in laying flocks, which it says has made a ‘remarkable impact’ in reducing the levels of Salmonella Enteritidis infections in humans. Eggs produced within the British Lion scheme requires its producers to follow a strict Code of Practice, including vaccinating their hens and stamping a best-before date on the egg shell and box.

Andrew Joret, chairman of the British Egg Industry Council, which runs the British Lion scheme, welcomed the change in advice: ‘This is a great success story for British agriculture. The investment we have made in eliminating salmonella and the safety record of British Lion eggs means that we have been confident for some time that even vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, babies and elderly people should be able to consume them when runny.

‘This is particularly relevant for mothers as health experts say that eggs are an important food for them and their babies, containing many nutrients that are important in both pregnancy and weaning. Emerging research also suggests that introducing eggs early in the weaning process may help reduce the risk of the baby developing an egg allergy.’