By Mark Williams, chief executive of the British Egg Industry Council
At the time of writing, we had heard the disappointing news that there had been a salmonella outbreak which resulted in the Food Standards Agency issuing a warning to thoroughly cook eggs from a farm code with a certain best-before date.
As you know, among the cornerstones of the Code are; compulsory vaccination to protect birds against Salmonella Enteritidis and Salmonella Typhimurium, in accordance with the datasheet; high standards of hygiene on farms and throughout the supply chain; and ensuring proper and effective rodent control. This has proven successful in controlling Salmonella in eggs and minimising on-farm environmental salmonella.
Over the last few years, against a backdrop of increasing levels of Salmonella across the EU, we have instigated various trial work, as well as making amendments to the protocols in the Lion Code to ensure that flocks are as protected as possible. These include: where an environmental sample (a non-vaccinal regulated salmonella serovar i.e. Salmonella Enteritidis, Salmonella Typhimurium, or a monophasic Typhimurium) is found, the flock is immediately suspended and the eggs are quarantined on farm, in transit, or in the packing centre.
The protocols for dealing with such a regulated salmonella serovar have been significantly improved. We do not allow the affected house to re-enter the Lion scheme until full cleaning and disinfection has taken place and negative results have been confirmed. This also serves to protect the producer as APHA will come and collect an official sample from the new flock when it is aged between 22-26 weeks; we are constantly researching the efficacy of the Lion Code and have met with the (salmonella) vaccine manufacturers whose licenced products are used by producers in the Lion scheme. This has led to a vaccination trial to assess immunity of commercial layers to test the efficacy of the vaccine, to ensure that the vaccines remain fit for purpose and will continue to do so; We have also carried out a survey to assess older flocks. In addition, we have also started a programme of enhanced sampling and testing across the Lion estate; and we have trialled a new robust protocol for dealing with Salmonella sp. detection in packing centre samples, which is being rolled out.
No-one can guarantee that environmental Salmonella will not be found on farms as it can be introduced in a number of ways, for example, through rodents, wild birds or other factors, but we need to continue to work to find better and more effective ways to identify and deal with this threat whilst working within the CRRU (Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use) code of practice.
We are confident that the robust measures in the Lion Code ensure that our eggs remain the safest in the world. The enhancements to the Code will provide even greater reassurance of the steps the industry is taking to ensure that eggs produced under the Lion code are the safest they can be. Clearly, everyone involved across the supply chain has their part to play in this.