potentially contaminated eggs
12th October 2017

How refreshing it is to be able to print a success story and report on some good news! While it may not be world peace or a win:win in the Brexit negotiations, thousands of elderly care home residents across the nation are now once again able to safely enjoy one of life’s simple pleasures – dippy egg and soldiers for breakfast.

For years caterers across the country have adopted the policy, in line with governmental advice, not to serve eggs with runny yolks to the elderly or other vulnerable groups including pregnant women, infants and children, due to the risk of Salmonella.

This policy has caused much disgruntlement and even conflict between care home residents, and their catering managers. We’ve even come across browbeaten catering managers asking private hospital patients to sign disclaimers when the paying patients have reached boiling point and refused to back down in their demands for dippy eggs. It’s not just healthcare organisations who were affected by the ban – dismayed chefs in restaurants across the nation have been forced to find alternative recipes to the raw egg traditionally used in desserts such as mousse and tiramisu.

Runny eggs have, for decades, been one of those areas where consumer demands collide with food safety. Historically eggs have been a topic of dread for EHO’s and food safety consultants alike – we feel a bit like the egg police when explaining sympathetically that caterers do need to deny dear Ethel or darling Walter their dippy egg, due to the risk of salmonella. For an EHO, food safety consultant or caterer to give the green light would have been flying in the face of governmental advice and, as such, if an undercooked egg had caused food poisoning there would have been a high price to pay….not just a guilty conscience but a guilty verdict in court.

Yesterday we received the fantastic news that based on scientific evidence the Food Standards Agency has changed the advice on runny eggs. The new guidance says that eggs which are produced under the British Lion Scheme CAN be eaten runny or raw, even by those who are particularly vulnerable to serious cases of food poisoning e.g. the elderly, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems.

This decision may have been a long time coming but it’s so good to see a sound, risk based decision being made.

Another facet to this success story is that interventions to reduce salmonella in eggs under the Lion Mark scheme have worked. This recognises massive progress since 1988 when then health minister Edwina Curry declared that most of Britain’s egg production was infected with the salmonella bacteria and is proof that focused, concerted efforts can help win the battle against the bugs – encouraging news for the industry and consumer alike.

Yesterday chefs, caterers, EHO’s and we food safety consultants took a collective sigh of relief with good reason. We all work hard to comply with many aspects of food safety, recent examples being compliance with new allergen legislation and addressing detailed guidelines to avoid cross contamination.It’s so good to see something swing in favour of the caterers and remove an area of risk for a change – cracking news!


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