Second egg assurance system backed in UK

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Vulnerable people have been given the go ahead to eat raw and lightly cooked eggs produced under a second system after it was backed by regulators in the United Kingdom.

Hen shell eggs produced under the Laid in Britain assurance scheme were deemed safe to be eaten by infants, children, pregnant women and elderly people, either raw or in foods with lightly cooked eggs such as mousses and fresh mayonnaise.

Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) have amended advice on egg consumption by vulnerable consumers.

The Laid In Britain Code of Practice, managed by the United Kingdom Egg Producers Association, was judged to produce eggs that are considered “very low” risk of Salmonella by the FSA and FSS. It is aimed at independent egg producers and retailers who supply regionally and locally.

People who have a severely weakened immune system and are on a medically supervised diet set by health professionals should still cook all eggs thoroughly. Non-hen eggs such as duck, goose and quail carry a higher risk of Salmonella and should not be used in raw or lightly cooked egg dishes.

Between 2016 and 2020, an outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis was linked to eggs from Poland. It affected 18 countries, including the UK, and was associated with 1,656 infections and two deaths, making it the largest European outbreak reported so far.

In 2020, the FSA issued a warning about some British Lion eggs contaminated with Salmonella that were linked to 38 illnesses. An investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Guardian in 2019 found there were at least 100 cases linked to British eggs in the past three years.

Advice change and application process
In October 2017, the FSA changed its advice to allow consumption of eggs served raw or lightly cooked that are produced under the British Lion Code by people more vulnerable to infection.

Authorities were then approached by the Laid in Britain egg assurance scheme, which applied to be considered as equivalent to the Lion Code, which is run by the British Egg Industry Council.

A matrix of measures that a system would need to comply with to produce eggs considered “very low” risk by the FSA was drafted. Laid in Britain applied to be assessed against this matrix in early 2020 and provided their finalized code of practice in November of that year.

This assessment was accepted by the FSA, FSS and a group including Public Health England, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Animal and Plant Health Agency and the Department of Health and Social Care.

The Laid In Britain scheme includes vaccinating all hens against Salmonella Enteritidis and Salmonella Typhimurium and uses an additional method of disease control called competitive exclusion.

Adam Stratton, chairman of the United Kingdom Egg Producers Association, welcomed the decision.

“We have worked hard to ensure that our updated code of practice satisfies the FSA’s new safety standards for eggs with a very low risk of Salmonella. It is gratifying to have this formally recognized by the FSA and we hope that the general public, retailers and our growing membership will continue to put their trust in the scheme,” he said.

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