Are runny, raw and soft boiled eggs safe to eat in pregnancy?
Latest advice for pregnant women about eating raw, poached, soft-boiled, fried or scrambled eggs - plus when raw eggs aren't OK
In a nutshell
Raw, runny and soft boiled eggs are safe to eat during pregnancy as long as:
- they're British Lion stamped
- you follow proper storage instructions
- you follow 'best before' guidelines - although it's OK to eat them a couple of days after the BB date.
However, if you’re eating out and you can’t guarantee the eggs you're eating are Lion-marked, then it's best to avoid dishes with soft cooked or raw eggs.
The expert view
After a year-long review by the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has declared British Lion Eggs safe to eat, even when raw, by pregnant women and indeed young children. This is due to increased hygiene, transportation and a vaccination programme for British hens.
The official advice from the FSA (Food Standards Agency) has now changed, confirming you no longer need to thoroughly cook these eggs in order to eat them. That means home-made mayonnaise, chocolate mousse and icing - if they're made with British Lion Eggs.
"The FSA has thoroughly reviewed the scientific evidence about the safety of these eggs, and we're confident that we can now change our advice to consumers," explains Heather Hancock, Chairman of the FSA.
More like this
Are all eggs in UK supermarkets British Lion-stamped?
Not all – but almost 90% of UK produced eggs are British Lion stamped. Imported eggs should not be presumed safe.
What about other eggs - eg duck and quail?
This safety seal of approval does not extend to other eggs, such as duck, quail, goose or pigeon, which are not considered safe raw or lightly cooked.
Has the NHS updated its advice?
Yes, along with the FSA, the NHS has now declared raw and runny eggs are safe to eat when you're pregnant.
What is the risk with eggs?
One word, salmonella. After a health scare in the late 1980s, there were fears that a high proportion of eggs could be infected with salmonella.
There’s been a growing change of attitude towards eggs - back in November 2014, there was a general 'acknowledgement' that British Lion stamped eggs could be eaten soft boiled or runny by pregnant women. However, after much research and a year-long review, these eggs have now had the safety thumbs up.
Salmonella poisoning can cause severe diarrhoea and sickness. Although it’s not certain whether salmonella can actually affect your unborn baby, it can do indirectly because you can become so ill.
“Salmonella is a risk because it can make you very dehydrated and unable to eat the nutrients your baby needs,” explains nutritionist Dr Rana Conway.
If you are concerned you’re suffering from food poisoning, visit your GP and drink lots of fluids, as dehydration is one of the biggest problems.
Thinking has also changed on best before dates. According to the latest NHS advice, you can eat eggs a couple of days after their best before dates as long as you cook them thoroughly – that means making sure both the yolk and the white of the egg are solid (because then any bacteria present will be killed).
If you are using them in baking - making a cake, for example - that is also fine, as they will be fully cooked in the finished dish.
- Homemade (eg from a market or farm shop) mayonnaise
- Hollandaise and béarnaise sauces
- Salad dressings
- Ice cream
Cooking eggs safely
It's important to still have high standards of hygiene when cooking with eggs – bacteria can be passed from infected eggs to other food, and from work surfaces where eggs have been on to utensils and crockery. And of course, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before and after cooking with eggs – as well as raw meat.
And as tempting as it might be if it's your last egg and you need it for a recipe – never use one which has a cracked or damaged shell. Bacteria and dirt could have got inside.
If you’re more comfortable cooking your eggs well during your pregnancy, follow these guidelines:
- Boiled eggs - a medium‐sized egg should be boiled for at least 7 minutes
- Poached eggs - the egg white should be completely set and opaque and the yolk should be firm. This requires poaching for around 5 minutes for a medium‐sized egg
- Fried eggs - eggs should be fried on both sides
Storing eggs safely
Eggs need to be kept at a temperature below 20C, and although there is lots of conflicting advice about whether or not you should keep them in the fridge, the latest NHS advice clearly states that it is the 'best place' for them. It's also a good idea to keep your eggs away from other food – most fridges have a little egg tray.
Leftovers and cooked eggs
If you have cooked a meal that has eggs in and you have leftovers, or if you have opened a ready-made product with eggs in and not finished it, only store it for a maximum of two days, and always allow it to cool before putting it in the fridge.
Hard boiled eggs should be eaten within two to three days. Cake is the exception to this, and it can be kept in a cool, dry cupboard (preferably in an airtight container) as long as it doesn't have other perishables like cream or custard on it.
What mums on our forum say about eggs in pregnancy...
"I eat runny eggs all the time too BTW, the risk is for salmonella, very small risk, but if you buy your eggs with a Lion mark on them all hens have been vaccinated against salmonella. Don't worry about it!" - Fabian79
"I eat runny eggs, i make sure the egg white is throughly cooked and I buy free range, lion marked eggs well within the date." - Jubilee77
Find out about the safety of other foods containing egg during pregnancy
Magda Ibrahim is a freelance writer who has written for publications including The Times and Sunday Times, The Sun, Time Out, and the London Evening Standard, as well for MadeForMums.
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