New advice about eating eggs

Infants, children, pregnant women and elderly people can now safely eat raw or lightly cooked eggs. As long as these eggs are produced under the British Lion Code of Practice.

The revised advice means that people vulnerable to infection or who are likely to suffer serious symptoms from food poisoning can now safely eat raw or lightly cooked hen eggs, or foods containing them.

Previously it was advised that vulnerable groups should not consume raw or lightly cooked eggs, due to salmonella bacteria concerns.

New findings on egg safety

The advice is a result of the findings from an expert group that was set up by the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) in February 2015.

Its report, published in July 2016, highlighted that the presence of salmonella in UK eggs has been dramatically reduced in recent years.

90% of UK egg production

These risks are very low for eggs which have been produced according to food safety controls applied by the British Lion Code of Practice. More than 90% of UK eggs are produced under this scheme.

Food Standards Agency (FSA) chairman, Heather Hancock, said:

“It’s good news that now even vulnerable groups can safely eat UK eggs without needing to hard-boil them, so long as they bear the British Lion mark.

“The FSA has thoroughly reviewed the scientific evidence about the safety of these eggs, and we’re confident that we can now change our advice to consumers.

“The major reduction in the risk of salmonella in Lion eggs is testament to the work carried out by egg producers. The measures they’ve taken, from vaccination of hens through to improving hygiene on farms and better transportation, have dramatically reduced salmonella levels in UK hens.”

Testing the Red Lion eggs food chain

A range of interventions are in place across the food chain as part of the Lion scheme:

  • vaccinating hens
  • enhanced testing for salmonella
  • improved farm hygiene
  • effective rodent control
  • independent auditing and traceability
  • keeping the eggs cool while transporting them from farm to shop

Exceptions to the revised advice

The revised advice does not apply to severely immunocompromised individuals. These require medically supervised diets prescribed by health professionals. The advise is only for eggs produced under the British Lion Code of Practice.

The existing advice on UK non-Lion eggs, non-hen eggs and eggs from outside the UK stays the same. They should always be cooked thoroughly for vulnerable groups.

Consumer advice

It is recommended that when eating raw or lightly cooked eggs you should:

  • store eggs safely in a cool dry place such as the fridge
  • follow good hygiene practices in the kitchen; avoiding cross contamination, cleaning work surfaces, dishes and utensils and making sure you wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling eggs
  • observe ‘best before’ dates