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The Big Question: Was Edwina Currie right about salmonella in eggs, after all?

by 5m Editor
17 November 2006, at 11:07am

UK - Salmonella is back in the news, because the Food Standards Agency has found high levels of salmonella in foreign eggs.

The Government's food watchdog said that one in 30 boxes of imported eggs had salmonella, a bacterium that can cause nasty - and occasionally fatal - food poisoning. In Spanish eggs, the figure was one in eight. Quite separately, the Government has uncovered the mis-labelling of millions of battery-farm eggs as free-range.

Where does Edwina Currie come into it?

Although the British egg industry insists its eggs are safe to eat, the FSA's salmonella survey brought back memories of Edwina Currie's infamous comments in the late 1980s which plunged the egg industry into crisis. On 3 December 1988, the outspoken junior health minister told ITN: "Most of the egg production in this country sadly is now infected with salmonella." Sales of eggs plummeted 60 per cent overnight. The loss of revenue forced farmers to slaughter four million hens and destroy 400 million unwanted eggs.

What happened to Ms Currie?

She had a torrid time. Ms Currie had spoken out because cases of Salmonella enteritidis, associated with poultry production, had almost trebled in a year. But the egg industry rubbished her comments. British Egg Industry Council said the risk of getting salmonella from eating an egg was less than one in 200 million and took out adverts in all the newspapers headed "Eggs. The facts". Officials at the Ministry of Agriculture were reported to be very "angry" at their health colleague's remarks. Amid the crisis, the government mounted a multimillion-pound compensation package for egg producers. Margaret Thatcher stated her views. "I had eggs for breakfast," she said. Ms Currie resigned on 17 December.

Source: The Independant

5m Editor