We all know that hot dogs are not the healthiest food, but many people will consume them regardless. What's the harm in consuming a few frankfurters here and there at BBQs, sporting events and gatherings right? Everything in moderation right? Unsuspecting consumers have no idea what really constitutes a hot dog. Even workers at hot dog factories say it's an unpleasant business. Arguably one of the most processed, industrial foods in the world, Americans eat almost 200 million hot dogs in the summer months alone. There's nothing like appetizing meat mush mixed with powdered preservatives, flavourings and red colouring. Most who consume hot dogs regularly likely don't care much about their health, but for those who think an occasional hot dog won't hurt you, get informed about the industry and you may change your mind.
Hot dogs are as diverse as the population. Each area claims it has the best, or the healthiest and consumers certainly have their preferences. Two of the most popular hot dog styles are New York and Chicago. Natives of these cities are as dedicated to their hot dogs as sports fans are to their teams and they're top sellers at sporting events.
It's not that we can't make hotdogs healthier, it's that the industry doesn't want to. People who become addicted to the specific color, smell, taste and texture of their favorite brands are very particular and loyal.
The cheapest hot dogs don't just taste awful, but they can be disastrous to your health. Even one hot dog can create an inflammory cascade within the body. There is now scientific evidence that hot dogs -- like all processed meats -- increase the risk of cancer. But the meat industry shovels a lot of something special to shelter that information from the public.
That's right! No need to fret about that juicy hot dog anymore because J. Scott Smith, professor of food chemistry, and his K-State research team say it's OK. It just another fine demonstration of junk science at its best and food industry criminals investigating their own crimes.The ready-to-eat product project was a collaboration with several other K-State researchers and appeared in Meat Science, the journal of the American Meat Science Association.
Smith's research was supported by the the American Meat Institute Foundation and the National Pork Board Checkoff. Actually the American Meat Institute insists that "the most important fact is that the larger body of evidence has shown that processed meats are a healthy part of a balanced diet." Need I say more??
Consumption of hot dogs, sausages and luncheon meats, along with other forms of processed meat, was also associated with the greatest risk of pancreatic cancer in a large multiethnic study.
Eating too many processed foods with high sodium levels contributed to 2.3 million deaths from heart attacks, strokes and other heart-related diseases throughout the world in 2010, representing 15 percent of all deaths due to these causes, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions.
The World Cancer Research Fund recommends people avoid all processed meats.
The fund's Dr Rachel Thompson said: "If everyone ate less than 70g a week -- or two hot dogs -- it would mean there would be 4,000 fewer cases of bowel cancer..."
What's Inside A Hot Dog?
Traditional hot dogs are made from pork trimmings and a mash of left over after chops, bacon and cut aways from ham, chicken or turkey.
The meat is ground into a slimy paste and mixed with water, preservatives, flavouring and colours.
The red or light brown dog varieties usually on sale everywhere contain very little real meat. Instead, they are made up of 64 percent mechanically-recovered chicken and 17 percent is pork.
Mechanically-recovered meat is the slimy paste created when a carcass -- stripped of all traditional cuts -- is forced through a metal sieve or blasted with water.
The process is banned for beef, but is permitted for pigs and poultry, and the meat produced is ten times cheaper than normal meat.
HOT DOG INGREDIENTS
All hot dogs need water to create the right consistency for the mushy paste, which is then squeezed into tubes and cooked. What kind of water you ask? Toxic fluoridated water of course. Almost 70% percent of the U.S. drinking water supply contains fluoride. If you're not familiar with the dangers of fluoride, please review http://preventdisease.com/fluoride
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Or HFCS is added to more than 60% of all hot dogs in the United States. For what reason a hot dog need a sweetener is beyond me. According to two recent U.S. studies, almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup contained mercury.
All sausages -- from the cheapest, nastiest brands, to the luxury free-range organic ones -- are bulked out with carbohydrate starch. Hot dogs usually contain GMO potato starch or wheat flour mixed with salt, baked and crumbled. Starches give more volume to a hot dog. They also bind ingredients together, and make the mechanically-recovered meat and pork trimmings feel more pleasant on the tongue.
Hot dogs contain around 2 percent table salt, which means they are classed as high-salt foods. A single 35g hot dog has up to 0.6g of salt. Not high mineral salts which are good for our health but bleached, colored and chemically manufactured table salt.
Adding powdered milk proteins from pasteurized milk sources to the meat slurry also helps to bind it. Many hot dog manufactures use soy protein, which can also bulk out the hot dog and provide another source of GMO ingredients.
Processed meat increases the risk of bowel cancer and sodium nitrite is thought to be largely to blame. It is added to hot dogs to stop them going grey, and keeping microbes at bay. Studies on animals have linked sodium nitrites to an increased risk of cancer.
The World Cancer Research Fund carried out a global study on the dangers of processed meats and found that people who regularly consume 50g of processed meat a day -- equivalent to one-and-a-half hot dogs -- increase their chances of getting bowel cancer by 20 percent. The charity believes nitrites are largely to blame.
In the body, nitrites can react with protein-rich foods such as meat to produce N-nitroso compounds, or NOCs. Some types of NOCs damage the DNA in our cells and cause cancer.
In 2006, scientists analysed more than 60 studies and found that nitrites are also linked to higher risks of stomach cancer.
By law, hot dog packets don't have to say what flavourings are used in them. Many use artificial smoke flavouring, and spices where monosodium glutamate hides and does not have to be labeled.
A few brands use the chemical MSG or E621 to enhance the flavour. MSG gives food a 'meaty' feel and is used in soups, sauces and, infamously, Chinese takeaways.
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. They are also used in detergents as a water softener, and is added to flame retardants, paper, rubber and anti-freeze.
Another additive common in food. E452 is an emulsifier and stabiliser, improving the texture of the hot dog and stopping fat going rancid. It also helps prevents specific bacteria because even bacteria are wise enough to stay out of poison. Polyphosphates cause a more rapid progression of specific ailments such as chronic kidney disease. Synthetic polyphosphate additives have also been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and they're linked to accelerated aging and interfering with the way your body activates vitamin D.
A synthetic form of vitamin C, sodium ascorbate is an antioxidant and acidity regulator that stops meat losing its red colour speeds up the curing process. When is taken in supplement form it can cause lung and skin irritation.
Carmine is another word for the red food dye cochineal, obtained from the aluminium salt of carminic acid, which is produced by some scale 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. Carmine is used in the manufacture of artificial flowers, paints, crimson ink, rouge, and other cosmetics, and is routinely added to food products.The colour can trigger allergic reactions and even anaphylactic shock in some people.
If you think that buying the finest most natural hot dogs allows you the bypass the ingredients above, you would be mistaken. The most natural 100% beef or pork hot dogs have been found containing the same exact ingredients, many packaged using the terms "natural" and "wholesome".
Next time you consider having just one hot dog, think about what's in it. There are hundreds of other choices, including other junk food which are far healthier. It's all about choices and where you draw the line.
Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.