Britain is importing thousands of eggs from commercial poultry farms on mainland Europe which are contaminated with salmonella, a leaked report from the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) has claimed.
Spain, Poland and the Czech Republic are the worst hit by the report, which suggests that more than 50 per cent of eggs in these countries could contain traces of the bacteria.
In response, the British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) has called for a complete ban on egg imports, arguing that European eggs should comply with the stringent British Lion hallmark of safety used by UK egg producers.
"We believe that imports of eggs into the UK should be banned unless they have been produced to the standards required by the British Lion scheme, including vaccination of hens against salmonella, a best-before date on every egg and full traceability of eggs, hens and feed," Andrew Joret, BEIC deputy chairman, said.
Although the Food Standards Agency's (FSA) director of food safety, Andrew Wadge, denied reports that his organisation was pressing for a ban, he said that "what I will say at this stage is that… we quite clearly want other member states to meet the levels that eggs meet in the UK".
The British Lion mark of approval, introduced in the late 1980s following a salmonella scare, has not been enforced on eggs imported from Europe.
There were 11,415 cases of salmonella in Britain last year, the third lowest in Europe according to an EU survey of the bacteria.
The Department of Health's animal health and welfare minister Ben Bradshaw confirmed that salmonella levels have fallen to their lowest level since the 1997 peak.
He said that efforts to control the bacteria had been "successful" but suggested that "further improvements can be made".
Despite this and the regulations of the British Lion hallmark, the Efsa survey of salmonella in Britain found traces of the bacteria in 12 per cent of UK farms.