Crack the Code: Ensuring egg safety for your business

Table of Contents

Whether you’re a café owner, restaurant manager, or food manufacturer you know that eggs are a staple ingredient in many dishes, but how can you make sure you’re using them safely? In this blog, we’ll take a look at:

  • The history of egg safety
  • what the British Lion Scheme is
  • The change in the FSA’s advice for vulnerable groups
  • What salmonella is and how to prevent it
  • Things to consider when purchasing, storing eggs and handling eggs
  • The best before date
  • Food safety management
Egg Safewty

History

Since the salmonella scare in 1988 the government’s advice was that vulnerable groups including pregnant women, young children and elderly people should avoid eating raw or lightly cooked eggs.

In 1998 the British Egg Industry Council’s Lion Code of Practice was introduced and since its introduction, there was a dramatic reduction in cases of salmonella.

What is the British Lion Scheme?

This scheme was introduced in 1998 to ensure that the eggs produced in the UK are of the highest quality and safe to eat.

The British Lion Scheme requires that hens are vaccinated against salmonella and that there are strict hygiene controls in place to prevent contamination. This includes testing for salmonella and independent auditing to ensure that producers are meeting the standards set out in the scheme.

One of the most noticeable features of the British Lion Scheme is the best-before date stamped on the egg shell as well as the box. This guarantees the freshness of the eggs and gives you and your customers peace of mind.

Nearly 90% of UK eggs are produced under the Lion scheme, so you may already be familiar with the British Lion Mark. By choosing eggs with this mark, you’re choosing high-quality, safe, and fresh eggs that meet the standards set out by the British Lion Scheme.

egg british mark

A change in the FSA’s advice for vulnerable groups

In 2017, the FSA recognised the significant efforts made by the UK egg industry to reduce salmonella in hens and confirmed that British Lion marked eggs are safe to be consumed raw or lightly cooked by everyone, including those in vulnerable groups.

It’s important to note that this advice only applies to eggs produced under the British Lion scheme – the ones with the Lion stamp on them. Non-UK eggs or non-hens’ eggs are not covered by this advice.

To ensure the safety of raw or lightly cooked eggs, correct storage and temperature control are vital. Adherence to best before dates and prevention of cross-contamination are also essential – if you use pooled liquid egg, make sure it is protected from contamination.

Alternatively, you can use pasteurised egg in any food that will be eaten raw or lightly cooked. Pasteurisation kills bacteria, making it the safest option. If you choose to use pasteurised egg, be sure to keep it in the fridge and use it according to the instructions on the label.

What is salmonella and how to prevent it

Let’s take a moment to talk about salmonella – a bacteria that is often associated with eggs, but can also be found in meat, poultry, vegetables, and unpasteurized dairy products. Salmonella resides in the digestive systems of animals and can be transferred to humans when they consume undercooked or contaminated food.

Symptoms of Salmonella food poisoning include diarrhoea, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever and headaches. If you consume food contaminated with salmonella, you can become ill between 12 and 72 hours later. Symptoms usually last between 5 and 7 days.

It’s important to note that salmonella can be found in a variety of foods, not just eggs. This is why it’s crucial to follow safe food handling and preparation practices, including proper cooking temperatures and avoiding cross-contamination between raw and cooked foods.

Purchasing eggs

Make sure you buy eggs from a reputable supplier. You should opt for eggs that bear the Lion mark.

How to store eggs

egg storage

Have you ever wondered how to properly store eggs? It’s a common question, especially since they’re often sold at room temperature in supermarkets.

According to the FSA, eggs should be stored in a cool, dry place, preferably in the fridge. Keeping them in the fridge ensures a constant temperature and helps to keep them fresh for longer.

It’s important to avoid exposing eggs to temperature changes, as this can cause condensation on the shell, leading to increased penetration of Salmonella into the egg. Additionally, it’s best to store eggs away from strong-smelling foods and raw meat to prevent any potential contamination.

How to handle eggs

When it comes to handling eggs, there are a few important things to keep in mind to ensure food safety. Firstly, it’s important to only use eggs that are clean and undamaged. Any eggs that are dirty or have cracks or other damage should be discarded.

If you’re breaking eggs for later use (known as ‘pooling’), be sure to refrigerate the liquid egg immediately and only take out small amounts as needed. Harmful bacteria can quickly multiply in liquid egg that is left out at room temperature. Also, it’s crucial to use all the pooled liquid egg on the same day and avoid adding new eggs to top it up.

Food handlers must wash their hands thoroughly after handling raw eggs. This is essential to prevent harmful bacteria from spreading onto other foods, surfaces, and utensils. Additionally, all surfaces and utensils that come into contact with raw eggs should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected to prevent any cross-contamination of harmful bacteria.

Best before date

egg bb

To maintain the quality and safety of eggs, it’s important to adhere to the best before date, which is no more than 28 days after they are laid. Be sure to stock rotate your eggs and use the oldest ones first to prevent any waste. Using eggs past their best before date can result in a decrease in quality and increase the risk of Salmonella bacteria multiplying to levels high enough to cause illness.

Did you know that freezing eggs is an option? This is a great way to extend their shelf life or to avoid wasting any excess eggs. Simply crack the eggs into a container, lightly beat them, and freeze them for up to three months. When ready to use them, thaw them in the fridge before adding them to your favourite egg dishes.

Food safety management

Ensuring the safety of your food products is crucial for your food business to score well during food hygiene inspections. This means that the EHO must have confidence in the management controls that are in place. How you use and handle eggs in your business may have a bearing on this. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Your food safety management system should outline how you are controlling the hazard of Salmonella when serving raw or lightly cooked eggs. This can be done by using either Lion marked eggs or pasteurised egg.
  • If you have specified in your food safety management system that you will use Lion marked eggs, it is important that you follow through with this in practice.
  • Always ensure that you are not using eggs that are past their best before date.
  • To prevent cross-contamination, make sure that raw eggs are stored away from cooked and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Do not leave pooled eggs at room temperature, as harmful bacteria can multiply rapidly in liquid egg that is left out

References

https://www.egginfo.co.uk/british-lion-eggs/about/success-story

https://www.egginfo.co.uk/trade/foodservice/information-ehos

https://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/media/document/sfbb-chinese-eggs.pdf

https://www.egginfo.co.uk/sites/default/files/2022-07/eggs-salmonella-leaflet-july-18v1.pdf

https://www.egginfo.co.uk/trade/foodservice/resources#overlay-context=trade/foodservice/information-ehos

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