New research shows that the British Lion scheme has “effectively eradicated salmonella in UK eggs” and highlights the importance of buying eggs produced from birds that comply with EU rules, claims the British Egg Industry Council (BEIC).
The research, conducted by the University of Liverpool Institute of Infection and Global Health, revealed the “remarkable decline” in non-typhoidal salmonellosis in the UK since the late 1990s. This coincided with the introduction of voluntary vaccination programmes in broiler-breeder and laying flocks, such as the BEIC’s British Lion Scheme, said researchers.
Andrew Joret, BEIC chairman, said: “This report further underlines the success of the British Lion Scheme in effectively eradicating salmonella in UK eggs.”
Joret said the report also underlined the importance of buying eggs and egg products, which complied with EU legislation. “It highlights the importance of food manufacturers, retailers and caterers ensuring that they take extra care when purchasing eggs or egg products. This is even more important when you consider that illegally produced eggs, from non-compliant cages, are still being produced in the EU.”
The British Lion Code of Practice ensures eggs are produced to the highest food safety and welfare standards, he said.
The report ‒ titled ‘The decline and fall of non-typhoidal salmonella in the United Kingdom’ ‒ revealed the incidence of salmonella had fallen since 1997 and had reached pre-epidemic levels.
“When salmonella peaked in 1993 in the UK, over 18,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of illness were recorded in national surveillance statistcs, yet by 2010 this had fallen to just 459,” according to the report published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. “Thus the decline in non-typhoidal salmonellosis witnessed in the UK in recent years reflects this major contraction in reports of salmonella.”
After analysing the source of outbreaks where raw shell eggs were involved, nearly half of foodborne salmonella outbreaks occurred in the foodservice sector, said the researchers.
The report also noted that there had been national outbreaks of salmonella linked to imported raw shell eggs in recent years.
The Lion Quality Mark scheme was set up in 1998 to combat diminishing egg sales, which had fallen by 60% in 1989, when junior health minister Edwina Currie warned TV viewers that most of the egg production in this country was infected with salmonella.
Sales continued to fall by 8% a year, until most UK producers and packers made a voluntary £8M investment to assist the BEIC promote British eggs.