British Eggs Declared Salmonella Free After 30 Years

October 11, 2017 Updated: October 15, 2017

Put on the toaster for those soldiers, dig out that old mayonnaise recipe. Thirty years after Edwina Currie’s infamous announcement about salmonella in British eggs, the food standards has declared that they are now safe for pregnant women and children to consume raw.

“We had previously advised that vulnerable groups should not consume raw or lightly cooked eggs, because eggs may contain salmonella bacteria, which can cause serious illness,” said Heather Hancock, Chairman of the Food Standards Agency.

In an online statement the food watchdog said that research now indicated that all eggs with the lion mark are now safe. “Now even vulnerable groups can safely eat UK eggs without needing to hardboil them,” said Hancock.

A full English breakfast pictured in Cape Town South Africa, June 17, 2010. Pregnant women can now indulge in a full English breakfast without worrying about the runny yolks. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

The official advice has been against the consumption of raw eggs for the last 30 years, since health secretary Edwina Currie’s  bungled announcement of the presence of salmonella in British eggs in 1998.

Currie mistakenly said that “most” egg production in the UK was infected with the bacteria, causing a public outcry as egg sales plummeted by 60 percent, leading to the slaughter of 4 million hens. Her remarks were widely interpreted by the public to mean that most eggs were infected. In fact, the data she was quoting specifically referred to most flocks not hens.  Two weeks later, she was forced to resign.

Edwina Currie aat the Strictly Come Dancing 2011 press launch at BBC Television Centre on Sept. 7, 2011, in London, England. The former MP and celebrity became famous for he announcement on salmonella in eggs 30 years ago, which led to her resignation (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Since that time, various measures have been introduced to reduce salmonella levels, including vaccination of hens, better transportation, improved farm hygiene, and better control of pests, which can spread infection.

Raw eggs aren’t merely the preserve of bodybuilders and hangover cures. They are traditionally used in meringues, mousses, tiramisu, a variety of salad dressings, and even some home-made ice-cream recipes.

Andrew Joret, chairman of the British Egg Industry Council, which runs the British Lion scheme, welcomed the new advice in an online statement:  “This is a real success story for the UK egg industry. Our producers have maintained the highest standards for two decades to ensure the superior safety of British Lion eggs and we are delighted that FSA has now confirmed that these eggs are safe enough for even vulnerable groups to eat runny or even raw.”