Renfrewshire Council

Egg safety

With their significant protein, vitamin and mineral content and relatively low saturated fat content, eggs are a valuable component in a healthy diet.

Eggs are safer than ever. Since its introduction in 1998, the Lion Brand scheme has been extremely successful in reducing levels of Salmonella in British eggs.

Although the Lion mark means that contamination with Salmonella is unlikely it's not a 100% guarantee.

British Lion Brand eggs account for about 85% of UK egg production, so there are some eggs out there without the Lion mark. Also, imported eggs from Europe, which tend to be slightly cheaper, may not have the same stringent standards and can carry higher levels of Salmonella.

Current Food Standards Agency advice is that you shouldn't serve raw or undercooked egg dishes to vulnerable groups, e.g. the under 5's, pregnant women, the elderly or those with reduced immunity. If you are concerned about raw egg when eating out or buying food, ask the person serving you.

People who are not in vulnerable groups who eat soft-boiled eggs or foods containing lightly cooked eggs should not experience any health problems, but cooking eggs thoroughly is the safest option if you are concerned about food poisoning.

Buying eggs

  • Try to buy Lion Brand eggs.
  • Buy from a reputable supplier.
  • Open the box and check that the eggs are clean, and there are no cracked ones.
  • Eggs should be marked with a best before date.

Storing eggs safely

Storing eggs safely helps to make sure the bacteria from the eggs and eggshells do not spread.

  • Store eggs in a cool, dry place, ideally in the fridge.
  • Store eggs away from other foods. It's a good idea to use your fridge's egg tray, if you have one, because this helps to keep eggs separate. Or you can keep them in the box.
  • Bring eggs up to room temperature before use.
  • Eat dishes containing eggs as soon as possible after you've prepared them. If you're not planning to eat them straight away, cool them quickly and then keep them in the fridge for up to two days.

Foods containing raw eggs

Foods that are made with raw eggs and then not cooked, or only lightly cooked, can cause food poisoning. This is because any bacteria in the eggs won't be killed.
If you are making these foods for anyone vulnerable to eat, using pasteurised egg is the safest choice.
Try not to let children lick the raw cake mix if they are baking, and take care they wash their hands after cracking eggs.

Any of the following might contain raw eggs:

  • homemade mayonnaise
  • hollandaise and BĂ©arnaise sauces
  • salad dressings
  • ice cream
  • icing
  • mousse
  • tiramisu

Pasteurised egg

Pasteurisation is a heat treatment that uses high temperatures to kill bacteria. Pasteurised egg often comes in liquid, dried or frozen form.

If you are preparing food - especially food that won't be cooked or will only be lightly cooked - for people who are in an 'at risk' group, you can choose pasteurised egg as the safest option.

Avoiding the spread of bacteria

Bacteria can spread very easily from eggs to other foods, as well as hands, utensils and worktops.

There can be bacteria on the eggshell as well as inside the egg, so take care when handling them.

These tips can help avoid the spread of bacteria:

  • Keep eggs away from other foods, both when they are in the shell and after you have cracked them.
  • Be careful not to splash egg onto other foods, worktops or dishes.
  • Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly after touching eggs or working with them.
  • Clean surfaces, dishes and utensils thoroughly, using warm soapy water, after working with eggs.
  • Don't use eggs with damaged shells, because dirt or bacteria might have got inside them.

'Best before' dates of eggs

Eggs can be eaten a day or two after their 'best before' date as long as they are cooked thoroughly until both yolk and white are solid, or if they are used in dishes where they will be fully cooked such as a cake.