Food producers in the UK are continuing to strive to meet the growing demand for food, and the need for fresh eggs is no exception. Producers have warned that prices could increase in April due to a stretched supply chain, increased costs, and unprecedented demand. Meanwhile, consumers are looking elsewhere to buy their eggs, as shopping habits change due to lockdown and supermarkets suffer shortages. Keeping chickens at home is also growing in popularity. This Easter, our Regulatory experts offer some top tips on ensuring your eggs are traceable and safe…not including the chocolate variety!
Look for the lion
The UK benefits from the ‘Lion Code of Practice’ which is managed by the British Egg Industry Council (BEIC). This egg safety scheme was introduced in 1998 to reduce the cases of Salmonella food poisoning caused by eggs; and it has worked.
The British Lion is thought to be the UK’s most successful food safety mark, with over 90% of UK eggs now produced within its strict guidelines. They include a guarantee that hens and eggs are British, as well as that all hens are vaccinated against Salmonella and kept to high welfare, feeding and traceability standards.
Each British lion egg also gets a unique number, which acts as a passport and means that every egg, hen and bag of feed is completely traceable every step of the way. Farms producing eggs must ensure they maintain regular cleaning and disinfection, alongside strict pest control and biosecurity measures. These are key to preventing Salmonella, which can be spread by contaminated wild birds and animals, in water, and via farmworkers.
As a result of the egg industry’s efforts, Salmonella in the UK has now been virtually eradicated. In 2017, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) even announced that infants, children, pregnant women and the elderly can safely eat raw or lightly cooked eggs that are produced under the Lion Code of Practice.
Current supply chain stress
Lion branded eggs reassure us when eating shell eggs ourselves, or when using them as part of the production of a wider food supply chain. However, at a time of supply chain stress where demand for food production is high, such as the current circumstances with the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers may panic buy eggs out of necessity or producers may seek to have them imported from outside the UK. Farmers have long been concerned that imported eggs come from farms with lower animal welfare or hygiene standards.
Consumers and food manufacturers must be very careful when using unbranded eggs, for example when making mayonnaise from them, using them raw in sports drinks or soft-poaching them, unless you are certain that the eggs can be traced back to vaccinated flocks.
Partner and Head of Regulatory, Kathryn Gilbertson, has an outstanding reputation in the food safety sector. She regularly presents at high-profile events including for the RSPH and IFST and is part of cutting-edge developments in the law, particularly regarding food safety.
If you have any queries about your food safety responsibilities as a business, or the inspector has called for a visit and you need our help, please do get in touch.