If you’ve ever chosen the prosaic American classic at a grill out, you’ve likely suffered the snarky query: “You really gonna eat that? Do you have any idea what they put in hot dogs?!”
While insect parts, eyeballs, and that one oddly unidentifiable hard bit might cross your mind, any suggestion a hot dog contains human DNA likely sounds facetious. It shouldn’t. An astonishing 14.4% of samples tested for “The Hot Dog Report” by Clear Food — which provides molecular analysis of commonly purchased food brands — were euphemistically labeled “problematic.”
According to the report:
“Clear Food found human DNA in 2% of the samples, and in 2/3rds of the vegetarian samples.”
That’s not all. If you’re vegetarian or you have dietary constraints for religious or ethical reasons, it’s important you know just how little labeling matters:
- “10% of vegetarian products contained meat.” Chicken showed up in a veggie breakfast sausage and pork was found in a veggie hot dog.
- Vegetarian selections had labels exaggerating protein content “by as much as 2.5 times.”
- Vegetarian selections were also responsible for 67% of cases in the report where human DNA was detected —4 of 21 veggie samples had these hygiene issues.
- Pork had been randomly substituted for the chicken or turkey listed in the label’s ingredients in 3% of samples “in products of all price ranges.”
- Unexpected substitutions occurred with startling frequency. Overall, the number and type of undisclosed ingredients were: chicken (10 samples), pork (9), beef (4), turkey (3), and lamb (2).Hot dogs seem to be dubbed “mystery meat” for perfectly valid reasons.A few hot dog brands tested quite well, upholding their label claims and leaving out the human element. Of major brands, Butterball, McCormick, Eckrich, and Hebrew National tied for top score. In the “specialty and regional” category, Gardein, Taverrite’s, and Field to Family Natural Foods garnered top spots.
“Despite the problems we found, what was most promising in our tests was the fact that there are a number of hot dog manufacturers, large and small, that are producing high-quality hot dogs with integrity. These producers are not limited to organic producers or high-end specialty brands,” the report stated.
Clear Food offers several suggestions, including staying away from chicken products if you avoid pork and shopping Trader Joe’s if you’re vegetarian.
With such unsettling findings, perhaps the question should be asked once again:
“Are you really gonna eat that??”