On this day in history : 3rd December 1988 – Junior Health Minister Edwina Currie provokes outrage in the egg industry by saying ‘most of the egg production in this country, sadly, is now affected with salmonella’….
Later Mrs Currie claimed it was a slip of the tongue and that she had meant to say ‘much’ rather than ‘most’…. But egg producers, farmers and politicians were furious at the remarks made by Mrs Currie during a television interview – some called for her resignation…. The British Egg Industry Council stated her words to be ‘factually incorrect and highly irresponsible’….
Initially it appeared Edwina Currie had the support of the Prime Minister – Margaret Thatcher and the Health Secretary – Kenneth Clarke (years later Edwina admitted they had not backed her) but there were many in the Government who were extremely angry….
Edwina (who had by now become known a ‘Eggwina’) managed to ride the storm and hold on to her job for a further two weeks – but on the 16th of December amidst the threats of writs being brought against the Government – she was forced to resign…. The aftermath of the storm saw egg sales plummet by 60%….as a result some 4,000,000 hens were slaughtered….
It was in 2001 that a Whitehall report proved that she had been chiefly right…. In 1988 Britain had been facing a salmonella epidemic – but the risks had been played down….
With the British Lion food Safety Scheme we can now be assured all eggs carrying the lion stamp are free from contamination…. Launched in 1998 the British Lion Code of Practice ensures the highest standards of food safety…. All hens are vaccinated against salmonella and a ‘passport’ system enables all eggs, hens and feed to be fully traceable…. In 2013 Edwina Currie herself helped launch a new version of the Lion Code of Practice – salmonella in British eggs has been effectively eradicated….