The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) is advising food manufacturers and caterers to stick to British eggs bearing the Lion mark, after a new salmonella scare linked to Spanish eggs.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has linked outbreaks of salmonella in northwest England and the West Midlands to contaminated Spanish eggs. Almost 140 people have been affected.
The bug, S. Enteritidis PT 14b, involves eggs from a single supplier in Spain, the HPA believes, which were mainly supplied to catering establishments.
The agency has been in touch with the Spanish authorities, which are now said to be heat-treating eggs to kill any salmonella that could be present. Investigations in the UK are continuing but all supplies linked to the Spanish producer have been taken out of circulation.
The BEIC told FoodManufacture.co.uk that the risk to food manufacturers is smaller, due to pasteurisation of eggs during the processing of products such as mayonnaise. However, the council warned that eggs carrying salmonella could cause cross-contamination problems in food factories.
Highlighting previous issues with Spanish eggs, the council said in a statement: “The outbreak follows a fatal outbreak of salmonella food poisoning in 2002, which was also linked to Spanish eggs.
“In 2004, Spanish eggs were linked to a food poisoning outbreak at a café in central London, with one third of the Spanish eggs used by the café testing positive for salmonella.
“An outbreak in a restaurant in Kent in 2005 was also linked to Spanish eggs after owners purchased a batch of Spanish eggs from an unapproved supplier.”
‘Infected, imported eggs’
The BEIC also cited the 2009 salmonella outbreak in England, which involved a strain of salmonella, S. Enteritidis PT 14b, which has not been found in egg-laying flocks in the UK.
The British Lion code of practice includes vaccination of hens against salmonella. BEIC chairman Andrew Parker said: “It is unbelievable that British consumers are still being put at risk by imported eggs.
“There are plenty of high quality British eggs available, yet UK caterers think that it’s OK to risk their customers’ health by buying cheap, infected, imported eggs.”