The hot dog is one of America's most popular foods, with the average person consuming 50 of them per year. Hot dogs are one of the most nutritionally bankrupt foods.
The lure of a great tasting hot dog might not be all that good for you, although it might just hit the spot when you’re out and about looking for something quick to eat, either at the baseball park, picnic or fast food joint.
Consider that the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council estimates Americans consume 20 billion hot dogs annually, and we’ve got an industry whose ingredients may delight the palate’s of the masses, but uncovering just how they’re put together, might leaves us more than we ever imagined.
Let’s start off with this little ditty of wiener: The Red Dogs varieties on sale at Tesco. They contain very little real meat. Instead, they are made up of 64 per cent mechanically-recovered chicken. Only 17 per cent is pork. Can you guess what the other 83 percent is?
So let’s pull back the curtain on the ingredients found in America’s most consumed tube of meat.
Mechanically separated turkey : Looking more like strawberry frosting than blended meat and bone bits, the USDA defines mechanically separated poultry (MSP) as “a paste-like and batter-like poultry product produced by forcing bones, with attached edible tissue, through a sieve or similar device under high pressure to separate bone from the edible tissue.” Hot dogs can contain any amount of mechanically separated chicken or turkey.
Potassium and sodium triphosphates: These are synthetically produced colourless salts that act as a ‘stabiliser, buffer and emulsion’. They give a hot dog a firmer texture, keep it at the right acidity and allow the oils and fats to mix with the water. It is also used in detergents as a water softener, and is added to flame retardants, paper, rubber and anti-freeze.
Water The USDA states that hot dogs must contain less than 10 percent water.
Corn syrup : A combo of cornstarch and acids, corn syrup, almost all is derived from GMO corn, is used as a thickener and sweetener, as MSNBC notes — it contains no nutrients but does add extra calories.
Beef: In 2004, to protect consumers against Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (mad cow disease), mechanically separated beef was considered inedible and prohibited for use as human food, so be glad you won’t be finding it in your dog.
Salt: Hot dogs are salty, that’s part of their job. And in fact, each one has about 480 milligrams, the rough equivalent of 20 percent of your recommended daily allowance.
Potassium lactate: This hygroscopic, white, odorless solid is prepared commercially by the neutralization of lactic acid with potassium hydroxide. The FDA allows its use as a flavor enhancer, flavoring agent, humectant, pH control agent, and for inhibiting the growth of certain pathogens.
Sodium phosphates: Any of three sodium salt of phosphoric acids that can be used as a food preservative or to add texture — because texture is important when you’re eating a tube of meat paste.
Flavorings: Under current FDA guidelines, most flavoring agents allowed to be listed as “flavor” rather specified individually, so, this remains a bit of a mystery.
Beef stock: You know the drill: Boiled water with pieces of muscle, bones, joints, connective tissue and other scraps of the carcass.
Sodium diacetate: This is a molecular compound of acetic acid, sodium acetate, and water of hydration. The FDA allows its use as an antimicrobial agent, a flavoring agent and adjuvant, a pH control agent, and as an inhibitor of the growth of certain pathogens.
Sodium erythorbate: A sodium salt of erythorbic acid, it is often used as a preservative and helps meat-based products keep their rosy hue. Side effects have been reported, such as dizziness, gastrointestinal issues, headaches and on occasion, kidney stones.
Carmine: Carmine is another word for the red food dye cochineal, which has no health effects, as long as you are not allergic to insects. For cochineal is made by crushing up the shells of small beetles. The shells are boiled in ammonia or sodium carbonate and the colour filtered off. The colour, found in supermarket curries, yoghurts, lipstick and pink icing, can trigger allergic reactions and even anaphylactic shock in some people.
Maltodextrin: Basically, a filler and/or thickening agent used in processed foods, it’s a compound made from cooked starch, corn, or wheat.
Sodium nitrate: This common preservative helps preserve the red color of cured meat — although studies have shown that consuming sodium nitrite may increase cancer risk and trigger migraines. Nitrites can be converted into nitrosamines in your body, which are potent cancer-causing chemicals. Research has linked nitrites to higher rates of colorectal, stomach and pancreatic cancer. But that’s not all. Most processed deli meats also contain other cancer-promoting chemicals that are created during cooking.
Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs) which are hazardous compounds created in meats and other foods that have been cooked at high temperatures. According to research, processed meats are clearly associated with an increased risk of stomach, colon and breast cancers.
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) : Many processed meats are smoked as part of the curing process, which causes PAHs to form. PAHs can also form when grilling. When fat drips onto the heat source, causing excess smoke, and the smoke surrounds your food, it can transfer cancer-causing PAHs to the meat.
Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs): When food is cooked at high temperatures—including when it is pasteurized or sterilized—it increases the formation of AGEs in your food. AGEs build up in your body over time leading to oxidative stress, inflammation and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease.
Even if you buy only the finest, most natural hot dogs, you’re not out of the woods. For hot dogs are one of the most dangerous foods you can give to young children. In America, they account for an extraordinary 17 per cent of all child choking cases and kill around 80 children a year.
The truth is, processed meats are not a healthful choice for anyone and should be avoided entirely, according to a 2011 review of more than 7,000 clinical studies examining the connection between diet and cancer. The report was commissioned by The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) using money raised from the general public. Therefore the findings were not influenced by any vested interests, which makes it all the more reliable.
It’s the biggest review of the evidence ever undertaken, and it confirms previous findings: Processed meats increase your risk of cancer, especially bowel cancer, and NO amount of processed meat is “safe.”