Madrid and London clash over eggs alert
15 October 2004, MADRID –Madrid and London were at loggerheads Friday over demands for better safety checks after claims thousands of Britons have got food poisoning from salmonella in imported Spanish eggs.
15 October 2004
MADRID –Madrid and London were at loggerheads Friday over demands for better safety checks after claims thousands of Britons have got food poisoning from salmonella in imported Spanish eggs.
British health officials demanded that Madrid and the European commission takes firmer action on safety, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported.
In moves that could spark an international row, British officials said consumers should avoid buying eggs from Spain, and told caterers to do the same when supplying food to old or sick people or young children, and not to use eggs in raw or lightly cooked food.
An estimated 6,000 people may have fallen ill from the implicated salmonella strains over the past two years, although only about a third of these cases have been confirmed in laboratories.
The strains have been associated with the deaths of 15 people. More than 80 outbreaks of salmonella from the strains have been investigated since 2002 and "use by the catering trade of Spanish eggs" is said to be "a major source of this infection".
Health agencies have not pressed for an EU embargo, saying they preferred to work with the Spanish authorities, but they indicated that the commission might have to consider such action if the situation did not improve.
The Spanish authorities were surprised by the decision to issue a public warning about their eggs just a week before British officials were due to go to Madrid.
They complained that agencies were needlessly scaring buyers across Europe and sending prices tumbling.
However, the British egg industry accused both the government and the commission of not doing enough to combat the problem.
Andrew Parker, the chairman of the British Egg Industry Council, said: "It is ridiculous that two years after the problem with Spanish eggs became apparent no action has been taken. It is now time for the British government to ban Spanish eggs."
Britons eat about 30 million eggs a day, nearly 11billion a year, although imports are thought to account for less than a seventh of consumption.
Spain is the biggest single foreign supplier.
Exact figures for Spain were not available Thursday but Spanish eggs are used almost exclusively by caterers.
Barry Evans of the British Health Protection Agency said: "The continuing outbreaks of Salmonella enteritidis show the problem of contamination of Spanish eggs has not been resolved ... salmonella food poisoning is an unpleasant illness and though most people make a full recovery it can be extremely serious for vulnerable groups such as babies or people in poor health."
Judith Hilton, the head of microbiological safety at the British Food Standards Agency, said since that January, Spanish eggs had to be marked with the letters ES.
Maria Neira, the head of the Spanish Food Safety Organisation, told the Guardian that Spain had not had a salmonella alert on eggs since January.
She said salmonella was decreasing in Spain.
"We are also exporting eggs to other places in Europe and not having any type of problem," she added.
Subject: Spanish news