December 16, 2011
British Authorities Say Expired Eggs Are Safe To Eat
England´s Food Standards Agency (FSA) recently issued a statement saying that store-bought eggs can still be safely consumed within “a day or two” of their expiration date “provided they are cooked thoroughly.” This represents a reversal of its previous advice that expired eggs should be discarded due to the risk of salmonella poisoning.
The British press noted that the announcement is part of a larger campaign to reduce food waste and the costs associated with it. According to official estimates, the British currently throw away over $75 million worth of eggs a year, or roughly 660,000 eggs.
The FSA is a non-ministerial department of the British government which, like its American counterpart the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is responsible for protecting public health in relation to food.
The official statement on its website reads: “Eggs can be eaten 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.”
It went on to note that “salmonella contamination levels in UK-produced eggs are low, and salmonella is killed by thorough cooking.”
A representative of the government organization noted that a lot of consumers are unclear about what exactly the ℠best before´ date on food means. Concerned that their aging victuals might make them ill, many people simply throw away products that have exceeded their best of date rather than risk a case of food poisoning.
A spokesperson for the FSA has attempted to clarify the issue, however, explaining that: “Food past its best before does not automatically mean that it´s unsafe, but it might mean the texture or flavor is less good“¦ [T]here is an easy distinction to be drawn between the two: Best before dates deal with food quality, whereas use by dates deal with food safety.”
The agency´s advice reiterated that foods past their use by date, however, should not be consumed.
A government study conducted in 2003 found that less than a third of one percent of British eggs contained even a trace of salmonella. In the U.S., the rate of contamination is even lower, with less than one in 20,000 eggs testing positive for the bacteria.
Salmonella is genus name of the rod-shaped enteric bacteria most commonly associated with food poisoning. Though very rarely fatal, Salmonella infections in otherwise healthy adults may result in fever, nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. Young children, the elderly or people suffering from weakened immune systems, however, are at a significantly higher risk of serious health complications associated with infection.
The FSA´s announcement comes almost 23 years to the date after the great British egg-scare of 1988, when then Junior Health Minister Edwina Curry stated publicly that “most of the egg production in [England], sadly, is now affected with salmonella.” Curry was promptly asked to resign amidst plummeting egg sales and the near collapse of the industry.
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