Frank Facts About Hot Dogs
Allison Ford | Divine Caroline
Sticker Sleuthing The USDA requires meat packers to disclose hot dogs’ ingredients right on the label, so a quick glance will tell you exactly what’s in your frank. If you’re looking for the purest hot dogs available, select ones that are labeled “all beef” or “all pork.” These are required to contain meat from a single species, without variety meats or by-products. If the hot dog does contain organ meats, the label should specify it, along with what animal the organs came from. Also, hot dogs that are produced in traditional animal casings, such as those obtained from sheep or pigs, should be labeled as such.
Of course, just because the USDA requires companies to truthfully label products with their ingredients, that doesn’t guarantee that they’ll actually do it. In 2008, hot dog producer Vienna Beef settled a class-action lawsuit after they misled kosher customers into thinking their hot dogs were pure beef, when in fact they used sheep or hog casings. Even though hot dogs that contain meat by-products, mechanically separated meat, or certain chemical additives or colorings should be clearly labeled, companies don’t always play by the rules.
Not So Fast… Even if hot dogs don’t contain the unsavory substances that urban legends warn us about, there are still plenty of good reasons not to eat them. They’re full of preservatives, artificial colors, artificial flavors, and other chemicals common to heavily processed meats. They also have nitrates, which increase the risk of heart disease and heart attack, as well as MSG, which may have its own health consequences.
Hot dogs aren’t so different from many other foods in that they’re best consumed in moderation. The next time you’re at a barbecue or cookout and someone offers you a piping hot frankfurter with mustard and relish (or however you prefer to dress your dog), there’s no need to be concerned about those words of warning from The Great Outdoors. Hot dogs may contain many things that you wouldn’t want to consume every day, but lips and rectums aren’t among them.