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Eggs are key to our diet                                                                     October 2009 

Eggs are key to our diet

eggsWe eat over 10,000 million eggs a year. Every person eats over 150 eggs a year. They really do play a very important role in our diet.

There has been some controversy over eggs and more recently many people had reservations about eating eggs due to their cholesterol content. However, it is now recognized that eating too much saturated fat is more likely to raise blood cholesterol than eating foods rich in dietary cholesterol. Eggs are not high in saturated fat and today the Food Standards Agency and the British Heart Foundation have removed any hesitation on including eggs as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Eggs are in fact very controlled. In 1986 the British Egg Industry Council was set up to represent the UK egg industry and to provide information about eggs. Its members include 11 major organizations including the British Egg Association, the British Egg Products association, the National Egg Marketing Association, the National Farmers Union and others. Eggs are big business in the UK!

One of the key things that all this organization has helped is to ensure quality and this has been assisted by the Lion quality mark. This mark can only be used by subscribers to the British Egg Industry Council and the little lion mark on egg shells and egg boxes means that the eggs have been produced to the highest standards of food safety. The Lion Quality Code of Practice was launched in 1998 and includes compulsory vaccination against Salmonella Enteritidis of all pullets destined for Lion egg-producing flocks, independent auditing, improved traceability of eggs and a "best-before" date stamped on the shell and pack, as well as on-farm and packing station hygiene controls.

All Lion Quality eggs have a best-before date printed on the shell as well as on the egg box to ensure freshness. EU legislation requires that the maximum ‘best-before’ date on eggs must be 28 days from lay. To ensure optimum freshness, Lion eggs have a best-before date of up to 27 days from lay. For Lion eggs this must be shown on the shell (although this is not a legal requirement). Eggs have to be collected from farms at least twice a week and in practice most Lion eggs are delivered to the supermarket within 48 hours of being laid.

However, if you doubt the freshness, a simple test is to place an egg in water: generally, if the egg is stale it will float and, if it sinks, it is fresh. This is because as the egg gets older, the size of the air sac increases, making it float.

The colour of the yolk is dictated by what the hen eats. The Lion Code of Practice bans the use of the colourant canthaxanthin, so natural carotenoid ingredients such as grassmeal, maize, capiscum or marigold products are often used in hens’ feed, which give a deeper coloured yolk. Citranaxanthin - a nature-identical product which occurs naturally in the peel of citrus fruits – may also be used.

The colour of the egg shell is dependent on the breed of the hen. In general, white hens produce white eggs and brown hens brown eggs. Up until the early 1970s, white eggs were popular in the UK, but during the late 1970s the number of white eggs began to diminish as consumers expressed a preference for brown eggs. Since the 1980s the British industry has produced almost 100 per cent brown shelled eggs, although several other countries still produce white shelled eggs. There is no nutritional difference between white and brown shelled eggs.

Sometimes you can get a little lump of red in an egg - this is most likely to be what is called a ‘blood spot’, which comes from a ruptured blood vessel. It is relatively common and quite safe to eat.

For optimum freshness and food safety, eggs should be kept at a constant temperature below 20C. Most modern supermarkets are kept below 20C so this is why they are not kept in a fridge. However, at home it is recommended that eggs are kept in the fridge and then brought out to reach warm temperature before use.

Eggs have played a key role in the nations’ diet for so long, and it is good to know that today we can be assured that the eggs we buy are fresh and good to eat.



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