It’s National Egg Week!
Much has been done since the 1980’s when Edwina Currie’s comments on salmonella brought eggs to the forefront. Commercially produced egg supplies are closely monitored and the British Egg Industry Council has done much to manage and promote safety. Over 85% of all chicken eggs sold in the UK carry the Lion Quality logo and the inoculation of large flocks over recent years has had a significant impact in reducing reported cases of salmonella in England and Wales. However salmonella is still present and is the second most common food related illness behind campylobacter.
Fiona Sinclair, Director of STS, says: “The trend for reducing food miles means catering businesses are using ingredients sourced closer to home, and more unusual eggs from smaller artisan businesses are proving popular. Fresh and free range doesn’t mean safe and until the FSA findings are published later this year, it would be prudent for all food businesses to continue with caution and observe good food safety principles. Eggs will continue to be a staple part of our diet and with continued awareness, correct handling and applying good practice, negative reaction to them should be minimised.”
Storing raw eggs
The recommendation is to keep eggs refrigerated in their shells at a temperature of 4°C or below. It’s also important to ensure eggs are clean and the shells are not cracked. Discard any cracked or dirty eggs as they may harbour other bacteria.
Date of use:
Eggs should ideally be used within two to three weeks to ensure best quality. If they are hard cooked (in the shell or peeled) they should be used within a week of cooking.
Egg whites can be frozen on their own but if yolks are present they should be beaten in with the whites. Eggs should not be frozen in their shells. Similarly, prepared dishes should be served as soon as possible after they are made and any leftovers disposed of within 24 hours, even if they have been stored correctly.
Preparation of eggs:
As with all food preparation it is important to wash hands and clean and disinfect utensils and equipment thoroughly to ensure work surfaces remain clean if they come into contact with food stuff containing raw eggs. Kitchen clothing must be properly laundered and cardboard egg trays should always be discarded rather than reused.
When cooking dishes that contain eggs you should ensure an internal temperature of 75°C or greater is achieved for 30 seconds, checking with a food thermometer. Once cooked minimise the time eggs, or food made with eggs, is kept at room temperature. Any recipe that calls for raw or undercooked eggs with runny yolks should be made using eggs treated by pasteurisation.
Since the 1990s the relationship between
Salmonella and eggs has been well documented and researched. You may remember the famous interview with Edwina Currie, the then Junior Heath Minister, for ITN. Her impromptu comment of “Most of the egg production in this country, sadly, is now infected with Salmonella.” Caused a national panic and resulted in eggs sales to drop by 60% almost overnight.
As you may already be aware, the ‘Lion Mark’ was re-instated in 1998. What you may not be aware of is what the logo is fully telling you. Most people see it as a sign of quality. This true to a certain extent, but it also demonstrates that the farm adheres to a stringent Code of Practice; The Lion Quality Code of Practice.
This Code of Practice includes the compulsory vaccination against
Salmonella enteritidis along with full traceability of eggs, hens and feed, and periodic audits by an independent party. The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) keep a database of all approved subscribers to the Lion mark scheme and if ever a farm is found to have any critical non-conformances they are immediately suspended from the scheme pending appropriate remedial action. In addition to this there are also financial penalties for critical non-conformities.
The European Food Safety Authority now considers British eggs to be among the safest in the world. This does not mean we are able to start eating raw eggs risk free though. The following safety measures should always be implemented when using eggs whether Lion Mark approved or not.
Keep eggs refrigerated: If salmonella is present, by keeping the egg below 7°C slows down the rate at which they multiply. Buy from reputable suppliers: This helps ensure hygiene standards are met and that correct procedures are used. Never use a cracked egg: these are likely to now be contaminated as the shell is no longer protecting the egg contents from external bacteria that maybe present, including Salmonella. Cook thoroughly: Heat is your best method for destroying Salmonella and other bacteria that maybe present. Once cooked serve/eat promptly: As with all other foods that have been cooked, strict time and temperature controls must be used to prevent any bacteria that may still be present from multiplying. Unused/left over foods that contain eggs must be refrigerated: strict time and temperature controls must be used to prevent any bacteria that may still be present from multiplying. Pasteurised eggs should be used for recipes requiring raw eggs e.g. Mayonnaise: Pasteurisation means the egg has been heat treated to eliminate any Salmonella bacteria present to a safer level. Use Lion Marked eggs: this is a simple control to ensure better product safety.
One factor that cannot be avoided is that eggs on sale in the UK are not always from the UK. Simple checks on the packaging and labelling of shell eggs will show the egg was laid from a UK flock. This however, is not so simple when checking the ingredients of a pre made item such as a cake. It is therefore of major importance that all manufacturers take note of their egg suppliers accreditations. This ensures that their products come from the best and safest sources.
For more information on Lion Branding, please visit the
British Egg Industry Council website.