New online research has shown that more than 60% of consumers want the country of origin of eggs to be highlighted on the menu when purchasing egg-based meals in restaurants and other food service outlets.
The research was commissioned by the British Egg Information Service following a number of food poisoning outbreaks linked to imported eggs in 2009.
Spanish eggs in particular have been implicated, with the Food Standards Agency naming a Spanish company as part of its investigation into a spike in salmonella cases seen in the UK last year.
Some 443 cases were reported – three times as many as in 2008 – many linked to a particular strain of Salmonella enteriditis not found in UK flocks.
While imported eggs are rarely seen on supermarket shelves, they are a regular feature in some food service outlets, said British Egg Industry Council chairman Andrew Parker.
“Salmonella in British eggs is a thing of the past, thanks to the food safety safeguards in the British Lion code. However, food service outlets may still be putting their customers at risk by using imported eggs that are not produced to the same standard.”
While precise figures are not available, it is believed that imports account for about 15% of the total egg market, with France, Holland, Germany and Spain being the principal suppliers. These take the form of shell, liquid and powdered egg, with most destined for food manufacturing and food service outlets.
The British egg industry is now calling on caterers to show the country of origin of eggs on menus.
“Caterers have a duty of care to the people who eat on their premises and if they use imported eggs, they should at the very least own up to it,” said Mr Parker.
The survey of 3000 consumers also showed that around four out of every five consumers want to see British eggs being used in food service outlets.