The Food Standards Agency is planning a nationwide survey to look at salmonella in eggs following the publication of a report today which says levels may have dropped dramatically.

The report was published by the Advisory Committee on Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF), a group of independent experts who advise the Agency on issues of food safety. This is the second report on salmonella in eggs published by the Committee.

The report links the fall in the number of people suffering from salmonella food poisoning due to eating or handling eggs or egg products with industry data showing a drop in the levels of salmonella in eggs.

Among its recommendations, the Committee has suggested that the Agency should carry out its own survey looking at salmonella in eggs. This survey will inform our future advice to consumers.

Food Standards Agency Chairman, Sir John Krebs, said:

"I am very grateful to the Committee for producing this report. We are planning to conduct a nationwide survey which we aim to publish early in 2002. We will use this to assess independently whether levels of salmonella in eggs have dropped as suggested by industry data. This is in line with the Agency's policy of providing the best possible independent advice to consumers based on sound, scientifically based information.

"We already know that the number of cases of salmonella food poisoning related to egg consumption has fallen by 53% since 1997. What we do not know at this stage is whether this is a direct result of a reduction in salmonella in raw eggs. Our independent survey will help us determine whether the industry data reflects the situation on shop shelves. If it does it will indeed be good news for consumers."

For the time being, the Agency's advice to consumers is that eating raw eggs may pose a health risk. Vulnerable groups such as the elderly, the sick, babies and pregnant women should only consume eggs that have been cooked until the white and yolks are solid.

The Food Standards Agency will consider all the ACMSF's recommendations in detail and the report will inform the Agency's strategy to reduce foodborne disease by 20% by 2006.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

  1. The ACMSF provides the Food Standards Agency with independent scientific advice on the microbiological safety of food. It decided it would revisit the issue of Salmonella in eggs following a Department of Health survey in 1996 which showed that the prevalence of Salmonella in eggs had got worse.

  2. The Committee's terms of reference are to "assess the risk to humans of microorganisms which are used or occur in or on food and to advise the Food Standards Agency on any matters relating to the microbiological safety of food".

  3. Copies of the Report are available from the Stationery Office (ISBN 0-11-322466-4), priced £29.50.