The British Egg Industry Council has warned consumers to avoid imported egg, following a recent outbreak of salmonella food poisoning, which has so far affected more than 150 people.
The type of salmonella identified, Salmonella enteritidis PT14b, has not been found in UK eggs, but has previously been linked to salmonella outbreaks in the UK from imported eggs.
BEIC suggests caterers and consumers should seek out Lion marked eggs to minimise any risk of infection.
A statement from Public Health England (PHE) said it was investigating the outbreak which, to date, has seen 55 cases in Hampshire, 25 in London, 33 in Cheshire and Merseyside, and 43 in the West Midlands. “Cases have also been seen in Austria and France,” it added.
The cases have occurred over several months and testing has indicated they derive from a single source. PHE also revealed that some of the cases were linked to two particular oriental restaurants.
Dr Paul Cleary, a consultant epidemiologist leading the PHE investigation, said: “We are working with our colleagues across PHE, the Food Standards Agency, in local authorities and with other public health organisations in Europe to investigate the cause of this outbreak. We are making good progress and hope to have more conclusive evidence shortly.”
Salmonella enteritidis is a strain of bacteria that causes gastrointestinal illness and is often associated with poultry or eggs, it added.
Andrew Joret, chairman of the British Egg Industry Council, said: “It is unbelievable that British consumers are still being put at risk by imported eggs. The British egg industry, through the Lion mark, has invested heavily in ensuring that the eggs we sell to consumers are safe, yet we are constantly undermined by eggs that come into the country which are not fit to eat.
“Caterers should be using due diligence and ensuring that they only serve eggs which conform to Lion standards.”
The comments come as a new survey commissioned by BEIC shows 70% of shoppers say prepared foods should always use British eggs, with 90% saying that the packaging should display country of origin for eggs.
When asked what they thought about foreign eggs being used, more than 60% expressed concern.
Ian Jones, chairman of British Lion egg processors, commented: “The message from shoppers is clear – they want British eggs in prepared food and they want the packaging to state the country of origin. Very little packaging provides this information and many consumers would be shocked to find that more than a third of eggs used in manufactured food products are currently imported.”