Two outbreaks of an unusual strain of salmonella (Enteritidis PT 14b) have led the UK Food Standards Agency to re-emphasise its advice to food businesses about only using properly cooked or pasteurised egg. 

Over 150 people have been taken ill since early September in the South East and North West of England and one person in Cheshire died last weekend. The symptoms are diarrhoea, vomiting and fever.

The Agency is also stressing the need for good hygiene practice in the handling and use of ordinary eggs on the premises.

Efforts have been made to identify the source or sources of the outbreaks by local Environmental Health Officers and the Public Health Laboratory Service, centring on London and Cheshire. This work is still underway. A common thread in both outbreaks relates to the use and handling of ordinary eggs by a local food business in each of the outbreak areas, the Agency said.

It has long been known that some eggs may be contaminated with the salmonella food poisoning bug. It is also known that proper cooking of the egg will kill the bug.

The Agency recommends that food businesses should use pasteurised egg, rather than ordinary egg, in products that will not be cooked or only lightly cooked before eating, as pasteurisation kills potentially harmful bacteria such as salmonella. In kitchens and food preparation areas where ordinary eggs are being used, good food hygiene practices are important to avoid the risk of cross-contamination.

In Cheshire, a bakery was using ordinary eggs in products that were not cooked. The Agency has been advised that they have now stopped this practice. In a London patisserie, the strains of salmonella in environmental samples indicate the potential for cross-contamination. Both businesses supply products to a number of outlets in their region.