The risk of salmonella from eating raw or lightly cooked eggs is now “very low” according to the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF).
The new findings mean healthcare workers no longer need to advise “vulnerable” people, like the elderly, young and pregnant, to avoid undercooked eggs.
The report, an update on the microbiological risk from shell eggs and their products, said: “It was the strong view of the Working Group that there has been a major reduction in the microbiological risk from Salmonella in UK hen shell eggs since the 2001 ACMSF report.”
The “very low” risk of salmonella applies especially to “eggs produced under the Lion Code quality assurance scheme”.
The Lion Code comprises a set of quality measures including vaccination for salmonella, enhanced testing for salmonella, a cool chain from farm to retail outlets, improved farm hygiene, effective rodent control, date stamping on individual eggs and traceability.
Eggs not produced in the UK are said to be “low” risk for salmonella, having also been deemed safer than they were previously by the committee.
However, the committee warns that eggs should be stored properly at eaten within the best before dates to be considered “very low” risk.
The Food Standards Agency, which currently advises vulnerable people against eating undercooked eggs, is launching an eight week consultation on the findings of the report.
The agency said: “The consultation is inviting views on the recommended changes to the FSA’s advice from a range of stakeholders, including food and hospitality industries, consumer and enforcement bodies, and health care practitioners.”
Louise Silverton, director for midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “We are concerned that media headlines may be confusing for women.
“Whilst this latest evidence from the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food says that the risks are greatly reduced, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) continues to recommend that vulnerable groups including pregnant women do not eat raw or lightly cooked eggs, or any food that is uncooked or only lightly cooked and contains raw eggs. The RCM will continue to support this position.
“We await the conclusion of the FSA’s consultation and would call for the analysis of the consultation to be done swiftly, to provide clarity and clear guidance for women and other groups about this issue.”