Throughout the years we’ve been told to eat more eggs, to eat fewer eggs, to cook them well and now – finally – to enjoy them however we like! When it comes to food safety guidelines, no other product seems to have undergone as much scrutiny as the humble egg.
You’ll no doubt remember the salmonella crisis from 30 years ago, when we were told that eggs carried a high risk of food poisoning – with possible diarrhoea, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and fever. Famously, Edwina Currie went on TV news in 1988 to warn about the dangers of eggs, claiming that: “Most of the egg production in this country, sadly, is now affected with salmonella.” Her comments, as our Junior Health Minister at the time, led to a drastic 60 per cent fall in egg sales, and eventually caused her to resign. She later claimed it was a slip of the tongue, and she had meant to say ‘much’ instead of ‘most’.
The British Egg Industry Council claimed that the risk of an egg being infected with salmonella was less than 200 million to one.
In 1990 Edwina actually led the National Egg Awareness Campaign, advising us how to cook them properly.
Then there was the cholesterol issue. We were told that they were a source of high cholesterol, which could lead to heart problems, and were told to limit our eggs and soldiers to just three or four per week. Then we were advised that the whites were fine, while the yolks were unhealthy – but of course, the most delicious part!
After all that, it turned out that it was actually ‘healthy’ cholesterol when compared to the damaging cholesterol in fatty, processed food, and thanks to their low saturated fat levels, eggs were back in favour. That is, as long as they were well cooked so as not to risk food poisoning.
In 2000, world and UK health organisations decided that actually there shouldn’t be a limit to how many eggs we ate in a week (as long as we had a varied diet and didn’t have familial hypercholesterolaemia.)
Are you keeping up?! It’s a wonder we still kept chickens after all of that.
The latest revelation in this scrambled story is that now everyone (including pregnant women, babies and the elderly and vulnerable) can enjoy runny or even raw eggs (hello cake mix!) as long as they have the red British Lion stamp on them.
NHS guidelines still recommend buying eggs from a reputable supplier and to ensure you store, handle and prepare them properly.
Eggs are packed with protein, Vitamin D, Vitamin A, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B12, folate and iodine. Recent research also found eating eggs regularly can lower your risk of strokes. Plus, let’s face it, they’re delicious and wonderfully easy to cook. We’re delighted they’re firmly back on the menu!