Eggcellent news for pregnant women, children and the elderly

Eggcellent news for pregnant women, children and the elderly

Excuse the pun, but I’m rather eggcited about this one! On 11th October 2017 the Food Standards Agency (FSA)  announced a change to its advice on eating eggs. The new advice means that people who are vulnerable to infection or who are likely to suffer serious symptoms from food poisoning e.g. infants, children, pregnant women and the elderly, can now safely eat raw or lightly cooked hen eggs, providing the eggs carry the British Lion mark on them.

Vulnerable groups can now safely eat raw or lightly cooked hen eggs that carry the British Lion Mark on them

Having recently had a baby I’m all too aware of the minefield that is the list of Do’s and Dont’s when it comes to what you can eat during pregnancy (I’ve included a link to the NHS choices website here which gives advice on foods to avoid during pregnancy, however the page will need updating with the new advice regarding eggs as it still lists raw and partly cooked eggs under foods to avoid). When I first found out I was pregnant I immediately looked for advice on what it was safe to eat, and in fairness most things are ok. Apart from the serious lack of wine and soft cheese in my diet, the other thing I knew I would miss was runny eggs. I mean who doesn’t love a soft poached egg with their avocado on toast, or a fried egg with their full English? So before I resigned myself to nine months of hard boiled eggs (not really worth eating in my opinion!), I decided to look into the evidence.  Below is a quick summary:

  • There was a salmonella scare in 1988 which resulted in vulnerable groups being advised not to eat eggs unless they had been fully cooked.
  • A British Lion Code of Practice was brought into force in 1988 which meant that producers now have to follow a stringent set of safety measures. These include vaccinating hens against salmonella, increased hygiene controls, salmonella testing, stamping a best-before date on the egg shell as well as on the box, and independent auditing.
  • In 2015, it was estimated that in the UK we eat approximately 12.2 billion eggs every year (that’s 33 million eggs per day!).
  • Approximately 90% of UK eggs are now produced under the Lion Code Quality Assurance scheme.
  • In July 2016 a report was published by the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) regarding the microbiological risk from shell eggs. The ACMSF concluded that:
    • There has been a major reduction in the risk of Salmonella in UK hen eggs.
    • The risk from non-UK eggs has also been reduced, but not to the same extent.
    • The risk of Salmonella poisoning is considered to be VERY LOW and therefore all UK eggs produced under the Lion Code, or equivalent comprehensive schemes, can be served raw or lightly cooked to all groups in society, including those that are more vulnerable to infection.

Taking all of this into consideration, I made the informed decision to continue eating runny eggs throughout my pregnancy and I am pleased to hear that this will now be the advice for all pregnant women in the future. The only exception to this was when I travelled abroad as the eggs did not carry the British Lion mark and therefore I erred on the side of caution and avoided eggs unless they were well cooked.

Eggs are an excellent source of protein, vitamin D, vitamin B12, selenium, iodine, choline and omega-3 fatty acids

Eggs in a basket

Eggs are an excellent (I couldn’t bring myself to include another egg pun here!) source of protein, vitamin D, vitamin B12, selenium, iodine, choline and omega-3 fatty acids, all of which are important nutrients in a healthy, balanced diet. For more information about the nutritional content and benefits of eggs click here. Eggs are also quick and easy to prepare, meaning that I can now get a nutritious meal on the table for my 8 month old in a matter of minutes, which is all too important when he decides that the world might end if he’s not fed immediately!

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