A batch of Spanish eggs linked to an outbreak of salmonella in a number of restaurants and catering establishments, has sparked the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to warn caterers to cook their eggs properly.
Almost 150 cases of salmonella across England and Wales, including five hospitalisations and two deaths, are being linked to several restaurants and cafes who may have been using eggs sourced from an ‘approved establishment’ in Spain.
Seven of 14 outbreaks reported since mid-August have been linked to oriental (Chinese or Thai) restaurants, six to other food establishments including three cafes and an Italian restaurant, and one to a care home in Sunderland. Five of the catering businesses were found to have been using eggs from the same producer in Spain.
The outbreak is part of over 400 reported cases of salmonella in the UK to date, a sharp increase on the 137 cases reported in 2008.
Cook eggs properly to avoid salmonella risk
The FSA, who is investigating the outbreak along with the Health Protection Agency (HPA) and Spanish authorities, is advising caterers to take extra care when cooking eggs while an investigation into the outbreak continues.
“Salmonella is one of the most common causes of food poisoning in the UK and is sometimes found in unpasteurised milk, raw meat and poultry, as well as eggs and products containing raw egg,” the FSA said. “The majority of eggs on sale in shops in the UK are of UK origin, and recent surveys have shown there is a very low incidence of salmonella in UK eggs. Even so, it isn’t possible to guarantee that any egg will be free from salmonella, whatever the source.”
Caterers should store eggs in the fridge away from other foods to avoid the risk of contamination, and be sure to clean the storage area thoroughly.
The FSA suggests caterers remember the following points when serving eggs:
- Keep eggs away from other foods, when they are still in the shell and when you have cracked them open.
- Don’t use damaged or dirty eggs.
- Be careful not to splash raw egg onto other foods, surfaces or dishes.
- If you are breaking eggs to use later (sometimes called ‘pooling’) keep the liquid egg in the fridge and take out small amounts as needed.
- Use all ‘pooled’ liquid egg on the same day and don’t add new eggs to top it up.
- Cook eggs and foods containing eggs thoroughly.
- Use pasteurised egg for raw or lightly cooked foods.
- Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly after touching eggs or working with them.
- Clean food areas, dishes and utensils thoroughly and regularly, using warm soapy water, after working with eggs.
- Serve egg dishes straight away, or cool them quickly and keep chilled.