Eggy Soldiers Are Back!

runny eggs

If you miss the old days, when dipping toasted soldiers and asparagus fingers into a soft-boiled egg made a delicious breakfast, you’re in for a treat. A new report by Government food safety advisors has concluded that eating runny British Lion eggs is safe – even for pregnant women, babies and the elderly.

Original advice that vulnerable groups should only eat their eggs firmly cooked was set in the late 1980s, following the Salmonella crisis. Raw or lightly cooked eggs were struck from the menu and favourites such as home-made mayonnaise and melt-in-your-mouth, chocolate mousse became a thing of the past.

Now, a year-long review by the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) has concluded that British Lion eggs are safe to eat when runny or soft-boiled. The Lion Code has effectively eliminated Salmonella from eggs through a combination of flock vaccination, improved farm hygiene, rodent control, enhanced testing for Salmonella, independent auditing, best-before date stamping on boxes and eggs, cool chain delivery from farm to retail outlets, and traceability. The risk of contracting Salmonella from eating them is negligible.

The authors of the report recommend that the Food Standards Agency (FSA) should consider amending its long-standing advice – that vulnerable groups should avoid raw or lightly cooked eggs – for eggs produced under the British Lion scheme or an equivalent. After a 10 week consultation period (ending on 1st May 2016), there is every reason to expect the FSA will adopt the ACMSF conclusion that eating runny British Lion eggs is safe for those who wish to do so.

It’s still important to protect eggs from cross-contamination by any potential food poisoning bacteria (eg keep them away from raw meat) and to store eggs at a relatively constant temperature. I prefer to keep my eggs in the fridge, but they can be stored at a constant room-temperature. Avoid temperature fluctuations that allow condensation to build up on the shell, as this provides an ideal environment for micro-organisms to thrive.

It’s also important to check for the British Lion stamp. Around 10% of eggs on sale are not produced according to the Lion Code of Practice. If the eggs you use are not produced under the Lion Code (or an equivalent scheme) then it’s advisable to continue to eat them fully cooked.

Being able to offer soft-boiled eggs and toasted soldiers will certainly make weaning easier and a lot more fun. There could also be long-term benefits beyond the good quality nutrition that eggs provide. Emerging evidence suggests that eating eggs during pregnancy and during early weaning is likely to reduce the risk of babies developing an egg allergy.

Eggs are no longer frowned on from a cholesterol or heart point of view, either.

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Image credit: British Egg Information Service

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Dr Sarah Brewer
QUORA EXPERT - TOP WRITER 2018 Dr Sarah Brewer MSc (Nutr Med), MA (Cantab), MB, BChir, RNutr, MBANT, CNHC Cert IoD qualified from Cambridge University with degrees in Natural Sciences, Medicine and Surgery. After working in general practice, she gained a master's degree in nutritional medicine from the University of Surrey. Sarah is a registered Medical Doctor, a registered Nutritionist and a registered Nutritional Therapist. She is an award winning author of over 70 popular self-help books and a columnist for Prima magazine.

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