The report, which we reported last week, shows that just one in every 290 boxes of six eggs on sale has any salmonella contamination, compared with 1 in 100 in a 1995/96 survey.
"This is very reassuring and good news for the consumer," said Dr Judith Hilton, head of FSA's microbiological safety division. "Basically, if you're buying UK-produced eggs from shops and markets, the possibility of any salmonella contamination is very low indeed and significantly lower today than in the mid-1990s. The UK egg industry is to be congratulated on the excellent progress made."
But while the UK has indeed made some tremendous progress in ridding the retail system from Salmonella-infected eggs over the past few years, one industry expert is urging for caution.
"One should remain wary of becoming overly optimistic," Stijn De Preter, communication manager at Leda Technologies told FoodProductionDaily.com. "The situation can quickly change for the worse, as the Belgian Salmonella enteritidis infection statistics show - 5,915 cases were reported in 2002, while 9,015 were reported in 2003."
One of the main reasons for concern is the pooling of eggs by food business operators. "To give you an example: if a hotel or a caterer were to prepare a chocolate mousse for a party of, say, 300 people, its chef would be using anything between 240 and 300 egg whites. The FSA's stats say that approx 1 in 290 boxes contains Salmonella infected eggs, and that samples were tested in pooled 6 egg boxes."
In the best possible scenario, says De Preter, this boils down to 1 infected egg in each 290th box or 1 egg in 1,740. In a worst-case scenario, this boils down to 1 infected egg in 290 eggs. In that case, the chocolate mousse stands a much higher risk of being contaminated.
Indeed, the survey states that although the chances of eggs being contaminated in the UK are now very low, eggs cannot be guaranteed to be salmonella-free, whatever the source or type. As a result, companies such as Leda Technologies are developing equipment that they claim is capable of removing Salmonella contamination from shell eggs without affecting their composition or cooking properties.
Leda's system, called Pollux, is also capable of pasteurising and cooking shell eggs in one process. The company claims that the process is particularly useful in the preparation of potentially dangerous dishes such as mayonnaise, chocolate mousse, tiramisu and soft to medium cooked eggs.