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1988: Egg industry fury over salmonella claim
Health minister Edwina Currie has provoked outrage by saying most of Britain's egg production is infected with the salmonella bacteria.

Mrs Currie, MP for south Derbyshire, made her remarks during a television interview.

She has angered farmers, politicians and egg producers, some of whom have been calling for her resignation and are threatening to sue.

"Most of the egg production in this country, sadly, is now affected with salmonella," she told reporters.

Ministry of Agriculture ministers are reported to be extremely "angry" at her comments.

A spokesman said more than 30 million eggs were consumed every day last year.

'Highly irresponsible'

This is compared to 26 outbreaks of salmonella reported during that time.

Mrs Currie's officials in the Department of Health have been unable to provide evidence that most chickens are infected with salmonella.

Her comments have incensed the farming industry and egg producers who are expecting a sharp fall in egg consumption as a result.

The British Egg Industry Council said it was seeking legal advice on whether it could sue Mrs Currie over "factually incorrect and highly irresponsible" remarks.

A spokesman said the risk of an egg being infected with salmonella was less than 200 million to one.

The National Farmers' Union said it might seek legal damages.

Legal action

Mrs Currie has been unavailable for comment since her remarks were made.

She has represented her constituency since 1983 and was made junior health minister in 1986.

During her short time at the Department of Health, Mrs Currie has courted controversy with her outspoken opinions.

She upset northerners when she claimed they were dying of "ignorance and chips".

And she was branded patronising and callous for advising the elderly to broach the winter months with a pair of long-johns.

One of her most controversial remarks was on the subject of Aids.

She said: "Good Christian people who would not dream of misbehaving will not catch Aids."

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Watch/Listen
Edwina Currie
The MP could face legal action

Edwina Currie on the egg health scare


In Context
Edwina Currie initially received support from Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Health Secretary Kenneth Clarke.

She weathered the political storm for a further two weeks before mounting writs against her from the farming industry forced her resignation.

As egg sales plummeted, the government was forced to offer a compensation package of millions of pounds to cover the cost of purchasing surplus eggs and for the slaughter of unwanted hens.

Mrs Currie remained an MP for her constituency until she was ousted in the 1997 General Election.

She has carved out a lucrative career as both a novelist and a broadcaster.

The publication of her autobiography in 2002 sensationally revealed she had a four year affair with the former Prime Minister John Major in the late 1980s.

Stories From 3 Dec


 
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