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Pregnant women 'should be told they can safely eat runny eggs'

Pregnant women should be told they can safely enjoy runny eggs, almost 30 years after the salmonella crisis, according to a new report.

British eggs with the red "lion" brand carry such a low risk that vulnerable groups like expectant mothers and the elderly can eat them lightly cooked or raw in things like mayonnaise, the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) said.

The report by its egg working group, the first since 2001, said lion-branded eggs should be categorised "very low" risk because of "a major reduction in the microbiological risk from salmonella" in British hen eggs in the last 15 years thanks to improved hygiene and storage.

It advised the Food Standards Agency to change its official advice on these eggs but recommends the warning remains in place for imported eggs, UK eggs without the lion and those from birds other than hens.

Fears over salmonella peaked in the late 1980s when two million chickens were slaughtered and pregnant women were told to avoid undercooked eggs.

The ACMSF report said: "The 'very low' risk level means that eggs produced under the Lion code, or produced under demonstrably equivalent comprehensive schemes, can be served raw or lightly cooked to all groups in society, including those that are more vulnerable to infection, in both domestic and commercial settings, including care homes and hospitals.

"The group recommends that the Food Standards Agency considers amending its advice on eggs in the light of the above. "

In 1988 Edwina Currie, then a junior health minister, said most egg production in Britain was infected with salmonella. Her comments sparked a public outcry and two weeks later she was forced to resign.

By early 1989 the link between eggs and salmonella poisoning was proved beyond doubt.

An FSA spokeswoman said: "The committee has acknowledged that there has been a major reduction in the risk from salmonella in UK eggs since 2001. This is especially the case for eggs produced under the Lion brand scheme or equivalent schemes. We will await the results of the 12 week consultation on their draft report and then the FSA will consider whether to amend its advice."


From Belfast Telegraph