When it comes to processed meat, it's best not to look think too much about what's going on inside of them. The phrase "how the sausage gets made" exists for a reason! But a new report takes an in-depth look at hot dogs and discovers a lot more than accidental cheese inside the tubed meats than we care to know.
A food analytics lab called Clear Food has DNA tested hot dogs to determine the veracity of claims made by certain producers and add a level of food transparency to better educate consumers about what they're actually eating.
Researchers tested 345 hot dogs from 75 brands and 10 different retailers and discovered that nearly 15% of their samples were problematic in some way. By "problematic," they mean things like: inaccurate food labels that "exaggerated the amount of protein in the item by as much as 2.5 times;" pork in hot dogs that were supposedly made with chicken or turkey and other meats turning up where they shouldn't be; and the absence of ingredients that were advertised on labels.
Most disturbing, however, were the discoveries made about vegetarian products. Namely that 10% of supposedly vegetarian sausages and hot dogs actually contained meat and that 2/3 of the vegetarian products they tested contained human DNA. Meat eaters aren't safe from that extra special human touch either, as 2% of all tested products contained human DNA of some kind.
The researchers gave some recommendations regarding trusted brands and products, namely that vegetarians should stick close to Trader Joe's and, overall, Oscar Mayer was a good bet if you're looking for a traditional hot dog. As Eater points out, beloved NYC brand Nathan's—one of the top five largest hot dog companies in the USA—is notably absent from their list of recommended products.