The phrase ‘the salmonella-in-eggs affair’ is used repeatedly in the newspapers, with significant variants, to label an ‘it’ which is the subject of discourse during the period. There is always a feeling, in reading the newspaper materials about salmonella in eggs, listeria and related matters such as aluminium in baby milk that the specific texts are ‘about’ something else. It is as if salmonella is to be read symbolically, and one newspaper gets close to expressing the symbolic nature of the discourse: ‘the underlying public health problem which salmonella contamination presents’. The definite expression ‘the salmonella-in-eggs affair’ presupposes an agreement between writer and reader that they are both familiar with the matter being discussed. Some newspapers were clearly aware of the journalistic opportunities provided by ‘the salmonella-in-eggs affair’; the Sunday Times’s comment is apt and elegant: a pandora’s box of food hygiene scares that have kept the headline writers busy in an otherwise dull political winter.