05/11/2014 07:51 GMT | Updated 20/05/2015 06:12 BST

Soft-Boiled Eggs 'Now Safe For Pregnant Women And Babies'


Pregnant women and babies have been given the all-clear to eat soft-boiled eggs – and they could even prevent children developing allergies, according to a new study.

The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) said the launch of a strict code of practice 15 years ago has been so successful that salmonella has been 'effectively eliminated', with 90 per cent of British eggs now laid by salmonella-vaccinated hens.

Each egg is stamped with a lion mark and a best-before date on the shell.

NHS Choices still advises pregnant women to avoid eating soft-boiled eggs, or giving them to babies after weaning because of the salmonella risk.

And just a fraction of babies are given eggs at six months because of allergy concerns.

But according to a new review published in the Journal of Health Visiting, nutritionist Dr Juliet Gray, said mothers may be unwittingly putting their children at greater risk of allergy by an avoidance strategy.

She said research suggests delayed introduction of potential food allergens, such as eggs, during weaning may actually be counterproductive.

In contrast the introduction of these foods while breastfeeding, between the ages of 4-7 months, could protect against developing allergies to these foods.

Dr Gray said two trials are being carried out to test whether the approach works and two government committees are also reviewing the current advice on infant feeding and food allergy.

She 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.

"Our review concluded that mums and their babies can be encouraged to eat eggs, as this could have a positive effect in terms of nutritional intake and may also help immune tolerance of eggs.

"The BEIC advice that vulnerable groups can go back to runny eggs, if produced under the Lion scheme, should further reassure women that they can enjoy them normally in pregnancy and give them to their babies when weaning from six months."

A nationwide salmonella scare in 1988 – sparked by Edwina Currie who was health minister at the time – resulted in vulnerable groups such as expectant mums, infants and the elderly being advised not to eat undercooked eggs.