As both an artist and a food safety book author I feel thoroughly conflicted when it comes to sunny-side up eggs. From an artistic viewpoint, I love the pure simplicity of form of the undercooked egg's yellow mound against the white. Much more attractive than an image of that dull, blurred and flattened well-done fried egg. But from a safety perspective....
The best way to avoid unsafe eggs, is to cook them well. Even if an egg carries a few Salmonella bacteria, they will be killed. No problem. We know that. Of course, that goes for fried eggs as well. Some studies have in fact found that most U.S. cases of food poisoning linked to eggs, have come from eating sunny-side up friend eggs - "The classic American Breakfast" as Land O Lakes calls it (their image is below).
And yes, during the last year, as I was finishing writing the book (which has a chapter on eggs) I became increasingly aware that almost every visual image of a fried egg used by the media is a sunny-side up egg. I am an avid New York Times reader, and while I am impressed with their constant and in-depth coverage of food safety issues, I am horrified that the newspaper is unwittingly promoting what the FDA calls "unsafe eggs."
That goes for some egg producer ads and even the American Egg Board (AEB). Last night I watched a movie I had recorded about a week ago - and guess what, there was an add by the American Egg Board displaying their "Incredible Egg" battle call superimposed over the image of a sunny-side up egg (usually it's a boiled egg). I just checked their website and, with a couple of exceptions, there are plenty of underdone fried eggs there too. These same egg companies, and the AEB are telling us to cook our eggs thoroughly, even if only about one in 10,000 is likely to carry Salmonella. Talk of mixed messages! Go to your frig and take a look at the FDA's Safe Handling Instructions on your egg carton: "To prevent illness from bacteria, keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly."
Visual images are powerful. These visual images we see all over the place are keeping Americans eating sunny-side up eggs. Shame on all those news media and companies who are putting aesthetics above safety!