Pregnant women, infants and the elderly can now safely eat runny eggs carrying the British Lion mark following new advice from the food safety watchdog almost 30 years after the salmonella crisis.

Food Standards Scotland said its revised advice that those vulnerable to infection could now safely eat raw or lightly cooked eggs produced under the British Lion Code of Practice followed a thorough review of new scientific evidence.

It had previously advised that vulnerable groups should not eat runny eggs because they could contain salmonella bacteria which can cause serious illness.

A report published by the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) in July last year said the presence of salmonella in UK eggs had been “dramatically reduced” in recent years, and the risks were “very low” for eggs which had been produced according to the British Lion code.

More than 90 per cent of UK eggs are produced under this scheme.

Dr Jacqui McElhiney, Food Standards Scotland’s Head of Food Protection, Science and Surveillance, said: “We previously advised that people who are at higher risk of becoming very ill if they contract food poisoning should only eat fully cooked or hard-boiled eggs.

“This scientific review has highlighted the significant progress made by egg producers in Scotland and across the UK in reducing Salmonella in hens. “The findings provide the assurance Food Standards Scotland needs to change its advice.

“Whilst healthy consumers can continue to enjoy all UK eggs any way they choose, it’s good news that children, pregnant women and the elderly can now safely eat their eggs soft boiled, runny or raw, as long as they’re stamped with the British Lion Code mark.

“It’s important to note though that this revised advice does not apply to the severely immunocompromised who require medically supervised diets.”

Fears over salmonella peaked in the late 1980s when two million chickens were slaughtered and pregnant women were told to avoid undercooked eggs.

In 1988 Edwina Currie, then a junior health minister, said most egg production in Britain was infected with salmonella.

Her statement said that sadly “most of the egg production in this country, sadly, is now affected with salmonella”

Her comments sparked a public outcry and a 60 per cent slump in sales. She quit government within two weeks.

By early 1989 the link between eggs and salmonella poisoning was proved beyond doubt.

Robert Chapman, of Farmlay Eggs, is former chairman of NFU Scotland’s Poultry Working Group. He said: “The advice that tasty eggs, whether soft-boiled or sunny side up, can be safely enjoyed by all is fantastic news for the Scottish egg sector. “It has been a long, long time coming but this is welcome recognition of the hard work and effort put in by egg producers to tackle the threat of salmonella in their flocks. “I hope this clean bill of health for all will encourage more Scottish consumers to put even more Scottish eggs in their shopping basket each week. ”

Food Standards Agency chairwoman Heather Hancock added: “The major reduction in the risk of salmonella in Lion eggs is testament to the work carried out by egg producers. The measures they’ve taken, from vaccination of hens through to improving hygiene on farms and better transportation, have dramatically reduced salmonella levels in UK hens.”

The revised advice does not apply to severely immunocompromised individuals who need medically supervised diets prescribed by health professionals.

The existing advice on UK eggs that do not carry the Lion mark, non-hen eggs and eggs from outside the UK is that they should always be cooked thoroughly for vulnerable people.