New Hen Egg Advice by Dr. Lisa Ackerley

New Hen Egg Advice

The Food Standards Agency’s Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) has assessed the current level of microbiological risk to consumers (including vulnerable groups) from raw or lightly cooked hen eggs and their products.
The conclusion was that in relation to hen eggs, the main risk was from Salmonella enteritidis.
There was acknowledged to be a major reduction in the microbiological risk from Salmonella in UK hen shell eggs since the 2001 ACMSF report, particularly for eggs produced under the Lion Code quality assurance scheme, which comprises a suite of measures including:

  • Vaccination for Salmonella enteritidis and Salmonella typhimurium,
  • A cool chain from farm to retail outlets,
  • Enhanced testing for Salmonella,
  • Improved farm hygiene,
  • Effective rodent control,
  • Independent auditing,
  • Date stamping on each individual egg and traceability.

The risk from non-UK eggs was seen to have been reduced, but not to the same extent.
Accordingly, the ACMSF suggests that the risk for UK hen shell eggs produced under the Lion Code, or under demonstrably-equivalent comprehensive schemes, should be ‘VERY LOW’, with a low degree of uncertainty, whilst for other shell eggs the risk level should be considered ‘LOW’.

Advice to Caterers

The ACMSF report concludes that UK hen eggs produced under the Lion code, or under equivalent schemes, can be served raw or lightly cooked to most groups, including vulnerable groups (although those undergoing transplant surgery are excluded). … However, if the egg is non-hen or not a Lion brand, then this change in advice does not apply, and there is a higher risk of Salmonella contamination. Therefore such eggs should not be used for raw or lightly cooked egg products.
Caterers need to be aware that they will still need to:

  • Check their supplier to ensure that eggs are Lion Brand or similar, and are hen eggs
  • Store eggs properly
  • Observe best before dates
  • Avoid cross-contamination of eggs
  • Avoid temperature abuse within the kitchen environment, particularly where the egg contents will be consumed raw or lightly cooked.

Pooled Eggs (Bulk shelled eggs)

  • Take care with pooled eggs as food poisoning bacteria can grow at room temperature
  • Caterers are advised to continue to observe existing FSA advice on the handling and storage of eggs and limit the time that pooled eggs are exposed to non- refrigeration temperatures
  • It is also essential that caterers take all necessary steps to reduce the risk of cross-contamination of pooled egg.

Finally

  • Check your supply of eggs before you make any changes and make sure that you do not accept any substitutes without careful consideration by management
  • If you make any changes to your practices, be sure to amend your Food Safety Management System or HACCP accordingly
  • If in doubt, consult your local EHP or contact the BHA
  • It is likely that the FSA will revise its advice on shell eggs and BHA will keep you updated.
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