If all of the sodium, nitrates and processed meats weren't enough to put you off hot dogs, a new report might just do the trick.
Clear Food, a company that conducts genetic testing on foods, looked at 345 hot dog samples from 75 different brands, including meat-based franks and veggie dogs. Of those hot dogs tested, the company found that around 15 percent had some sort of alarming issue with either labeling, hygiene or ingredients.
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For instance, some of the hot dogs that were labeled pork-free — such as chicken or turkey dogs — contained detectable levels of pork. While others contained meat that was not listed in the ingredients (for instance a turkey dog that contained chicken.)
If you thought that vegetarian hot dogs were a healthier option, the report showed that wasn't always the case. Ten percent of meat-free hot dogs — labeled as vegetarian — actually contained meat. And 67 percent of the veggie dogs had hygiene issues. Most of the hygiene issues revolved around human DNA. About two percent of the hot dogs sampled contained human DNA. And the majority of these were veggie dogs!
Let that sink in a minute: human DNA. The report didn't specify what likely caused the human DNA contamination, and I'm positive that I don't want details. What I do know is that my daughter, who regularly eats veggie dogs, is going to need to find a new favorite food. Because while I realized before that veggie dogs were still a processed food, I clung to a belief that they were in some way healthy because they didn't contain processed meat.
But the myth of a vegetarian hot dog as health food has been busted.
One bit of good news is that Clear Food did find some hot dog brands that are more reliable than others. Trader Joe's soy chorizo and veggie corn dogs from Foster Farms were listed as safe picks for vegetarians, while Oscar Mayer, Whole Foods’ 365 brand and Hebrew National got good marks for their meat-based hot dogs.
These brands still contain processed ingredients, so there are concerns about whether you and your kids should be eating them. But if you have to have a hot dog, and you don't feel like ingesting human DNA, these dogs are a good choice.