Here comes another food scare about eggs

Do you remember how, in the late 1980s, eggs were perceived as dangerous? It happened because our then Health Minister, Edwina Currie, falsely claimed that Salmonella was rife in British eggs. In 2006 the story reared its head again when the Food Standards Agency reported Salmonella in imported eggs.

Now there’s another scare. Should we all eat fewer eggs to avoid heart disease? I myself received advice from a cardiovascular nurse, a few years ago, that I should eat no more than three eggs per week. That was without examining my diet as a whole, without any evidence of my heart being diseased, without any problem with my weight. It was just bog-standard advice. One size fits all. I wasn’t impressed and yes, I do still eat two eggs for breakfast most mornings.

A fellow WP blogger, skepticalraptor, has reviewed a new report about eggs and cholesterol. It’s a good review (except that, skepticalraptor, your WP blog doesn’t seem to allow me to ‘Like’ or comment without using Facebook). Basically, when the evidence is examined, this study does *not* lead to a conclusion that we should all cut down on eggs.

I’ll be watching the news on this story. Farmers are hard-working people who put food on our plates. They face challenges enough without yet another food scare about eggs.

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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15 Responses to Here comes another food scare about eggs

  1. I saw your comment on a pingback. I self-host my WordPress blog, so I have fewer choices for setting up comments, than those of you who allow WordPress to host your blog. I think I’m on my 10th different commenting system, and I still don’t have a good one. I like the one you have, but alas, it’s not a choice available to me. I like the Facebook choice, because it seems to work for now, despite how annoying Facebook can be.

    Definitely, don’t worry about eggs, unless you are in a subgroup that should be worried about eating too many fats anyways, diabetics with pre-existing cardiovascular disease. But eggs aren’t their only worries, it’s any fats in their diets.

    Human physiology is amazingly tolerant of diet, because human evolution occurred during significant environmental stress for food sources. There’s a myth that man evolved with an “ideal diet”, when that’s just not true. Early man plainly ate what was available, and switched when the environment provided something else. So unless some organ system is out of sorts, human physiology utilizes it appropriately.

    Every single food myth gets destroyed when the evidence is examined. This egg thing bothered me, because the author’s data didn’t support his conclusions, or at least they didn’t support causality that eggs were the cause.

    Thanks for reading my blog.

  2. eqfe says:

    Actually I do a good job of rarely having more than three dozen eggs a week, although I probably cheat just a little, because I only buy jumbo eggs. By cholesteral is low, my ration of high to low is excellent and my triglycrides are also low, so the limit of three is obviously sound advice. I also make sure to never eat red meat more than twice aday, although I’m old fashion, and I put pork in the red meat category.

    • argylesock says:

      If I didn’t know you better I might suspect you of being a little bit silly here 😉

      • eqfe says:

        Lol, No that’s pretty accurate, although I probably eat closer to two dozen eggs most weeks and eat more cheese. I never make less than six eggs for breakfast on Saturday and Sunday, they are an ingredient in many of the foods we eat, like breaded and fried chicken or pork, meatloaf or meatballs, cauliflower in egg and cheese as a side dish etc. and those are my cholesteral and triglyceride results everytime they’ve been tested.

  3. tiggy says:

    Although Edwina Currie exaggerated the portion of salmonella, she wasn’t completely wrong.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/253554.stm
    Even current government advice is not to wash poultry before cooking as it may be dangerous.
    http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Healthychristmas/Pages/cooking-turkey.aspx

    However, the advice on how many eggs we should eat has changed, yet again – this has less science and more assumption.

    • argylesock says:

      Those links are interesting. I’m frustrated, though, by the way the BBC link sounds quite scaremongering. As though it were news that raw foods can contain infectious organisms. As though it were news that killing those organisms is one of the reasons we cook food.

      I like eggs with a runny yolk (unless eating them cold, in which case they should be hard-boiled) but when I did my Food Hygeine Certificate there was no mention of eggs as a particular risk. Ice cream and rice were the two most harzardous foods. Great emphasis was placed on keeping raw meat separate from cooked meat.

      Every farmer I know prefers their meat well-done. It never ceases to amaze me that some parasitologists buy into the ‘rare meat’ fashion. We know exactly what might be wriggling in there.

      • tiggy says:

        Wriggling indeed! I vividly remember Professor Arme telling us about his experience at a parasitology conference in Japan, where they served raw fish. Followed by his favourite slides of human parasites.

    • eqfe says:

      In the US the latest advice is not to wash poultry, under some notion that you will splash contaminated water everywhere and it will get on other food. Frankly I never worry about salmonella, but I don’t know about in the UK, but here, the birds cavitie still contains bits of internal organs which fowls the drippings which I add to other dishes, like risotto.

      • argylesock says:

        Indeed, that’s a good reason to wash the carcase before cooking it.

        I once overheard a conversation in which a young woman said she’d dropped out of catering college because she was offended by not being allowed to wash meat before cooking it. To her that was unhygeinic. Perhaps I was mistaken, but I recall her as having been black. There was a contestant on Big Brother a few years ago who was noted for his insistence on washing meat, even minced meat, and he was black. I wonder whether this is a cultural thing, perhaps to do with family history in hot climates with dust. But I have no evidence for that. It’s just something that struck me.

  4. lowerarchy says:

    Edwina Currie fucked the egg business then did the same to ex-PM John Major…
    I always eat organic, free range ova
    PS When my partner was doing Women’s Studies she said she was going to a seminar. When I told her where the word came from she was a little off-put 🙂 So I coined the neologism “Ovular” They still call the classes that round here.

  5. argylesock says:

    Do you know that in Britain, hens and other livestock classed as ‘organic’ are kept to higher welfare standards than other livestock? For hens that includes free-range housing. Thanks for raising this point. I’m going to write a new blog post about it.

  6. The salmonella scare with eggs still pops up from time to time. A while back, when I was having anxiety issues, someone mentioned as a throwaway comment that “A whole family ended up in hospital seriously ill from salmonella from eggs”…that was enough to make me terrified of eggs for several years, even though I know that washing your hands after touching eggs and having them hard boiled means they are as fine as they can be, and even though I know that for most people, salmonella is extremely annoying rather than life threatening. (I wasn’t always such a skeptical squirrel :p this is a relatively new development)

    When I am “in an egg mood” I have 2 eggs a day (Egg sandwich with cress, spring onion, tomato and lettuce!), and personally, I would worry about cholesterol levels from my (not very frequent) trips to mcdonalds before I worry about my cholesterol from eggs. I know this is me being a bit cynical, but I do sometimes wonder if the media jumps on certain stories to push people away from making their own food, and towards buying more processed food.

    Incidentally, when I was having my own food anxiety issues, I read this http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bad-Food-Britain-Nation-Appetite/dp/0007219946
    (Joanna Blythman: Bad Food Britain, how a nation ruined its appetite), along with some of the other books I mentioned here before (Shopped, about how supermarkets deal with their suppliers, Not On The Label, and Eat Your Heart Out, both on the topic of supermarkets), and they helped me begin to understand a bit better about food scares, and to try to look deeper into them, and read the actual papers rather than just the media with its catchy soundbites and headlines.

    • argylesock says:

      Good points. I like skepticalraptor’s blog partly for this reason. He reads original science and judges the ways it’s interpreted by the media.

      I hope you’re all right now with your anxiety. Or without it, in fact. In my other online incarnation, as sammason on LiveJournal, I often discuss anxiety and other health issues.

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