An outbreak of salmonella poisoning from eggs has prompted the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to issue a Food Alert for Action (FAFA).
The FAFA advises consumers to cook thoroughly batches of British Lion Eggs with flock code 1UK11871 from 22, 23 and 24 September as a precautionary measure. The alert said only a very small number of the eggs may be contaminated.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) broke the story, followed up by the Guardian newspaper, that 45 people had been poisoned since January.
Public Health England (PHE) told the BIJ the strain of salmonella involved in this outbreak has been detected and investigated over three years. The FSA has not disputed the reports carried in the BIJ and Guardian. The BIJ and Guardian reported that a total of 100 cases of salmonella poisoning from eggs had been reported over this three-year period.
This has led to criticisms of the organisations involved, because during this time the FSA was advising that eggs produced under the British Lion Eggs code could be served raw or runny to vulnerable groups as long as good hygiene practices were followed.
The FSA has confirmed that this guidance, based on a report published in July 2016 on the microbiological risk of eggs from the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF), has not changed.
The original ACMSF report found that the ‘very low’ risk levels meant that eggs produced under the British Lion code could be “served raw, or lightly cooked to all groups in society, including those that are more vulnerable to infection”.
An FSA spokesperson said: “No decision has been made whether the guidance will be changed or not” but that it would be seeking “updated advice” from its independent advisory committee.
They added: “Consumers are advised not to change their eating habits in relation to eggs, as the appropriate measures have been taken to identify and remove the implicated eggs from the food supply chain. Consumers should continue to follow the good hygiene and egg handling practise included in the guidance.”
The FAFA did not give any advice to local authorities on action to take, and the FSA has said the decision to issue it was unrelated to the BIJ news story that broke the day before.
The spokesperson added: “The FSA is working closely with PHE, the Animal and Plant Health Agency, the British Egg Industry Council and local authorities to find the cause of the contamination and to put in place control measures to limit any further contamination that may arise.
“We are collating egg supply chain details and information gathered by PHE from human cases to confirm whether all cases were linked to already known sources. When investigations are complete we will analyse the available evidence to determine whether further action is required.”
The ACMSF was not available to comment.
British Lion Eggs code
British Lion Eggs said its code has been successful in effectively eradicating salmonella in eggs and minimising on-farm environmental salmonella. But it added ‘no one can guarantee’ that environmental salmonella will not be found on farms as it can be introduced in a number of ways such as through rodents and wild birds.
The group said the code’s cornerstones were compulsory vaccination to protect birds against Salmonella Enteritidis and Salmonella Typhimurium; high standards of hygiene on farms and throughout the supply chain; and ensuring proper and effective rodent control.
The group said it has been working on a number of improvements looking at vaccine efficacy, enhanced sampling and testing, more stringent auditing, enhanced protocols for dealing with a regulated salmonella serovar on a farm, and new protocols for dealing with Salmonella sp. detection in packing centre samples.