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WATCHDOGS have given a clean bill of health to runny eggs, putting them back on the menu for toddlers, the elderly and pregnant women.

The news is a victory for British farmers who have fought for almost 30 years to restore the reputation of their eggs.

Soft-boiled eggs have come with a health warning since 1988, when the-then health minister Edwina Currie warned they could be contaminated with salmonella.

The resulting scare led millions to ditch eggs. But efforts by farmers to eradicate the bug, which include vaccinating hens against salmonella, have effectively eliminated the risk.

It means the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has now lifted the health warning for eggs carrying the British Lion logo. It said: ‘Infants, children, pregnant women and elderly people can now safely eat raw or lightly-cooked eggs that are produced under the British Lion Code of Practice.’ The change in advice is a result of findings from an expert group set up by the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food.

Its experts found that the presence of salmonella in UK eggs has been dramatically reduced in recent years, and the risks are ‘very low’ for those produced according to food safety controls applied by the British Lion Code of Practice. More than 90 per cent of UK eggs are produced under this scheme.

FSA chairman Heather Hancock said: ‘It’s good news that now even vulnerable groups can safely eat UK eggs without needing to hard-boil them, so long as they bear the British Lion mark.’ As well as vaccinating the hens, there has been improved farm hygiene, better control of rats and mice which can spread infection, and improved handling of the eggs.

Andrew Joret, of the British Egg Industry Council which runs the British Lion scheme, said: ‘We know that many people in these groups, such as older people in care homes, would love to enjoy a traditional soft-boiled egg again.’

Registered nutritionist Dr Juliet Gray said: ‘Eggs are highly nutritious, containing key nutrients including high-quality protein, vitamin D, selenium, choline and omega-3 fatty acids, several of which are not found in many other foods.’

But imported eggs and others not adhering to British Lion standards should still be cooked until the yolk is firm when eaten by vulnerable groups.