Clear Food, part of food analysis company Clear Labs, tested 345 individual hot dogs and sausages from 75 different brands sold at 10 food retailers in the USA. It found 14.4% were problematic in some way. Problems included substitutions and hygienic issues. Hygienic issues occur when some sort of non-harmful contaminant is introduced to the hot dog, in most cases, human DNA.
“We found evidence of meats not found on labels, an absence of ingredients advertised on labels, and meat in some vegetarian products,” the company said in its report on the hot dog and sausage market.
Human DNA was found in 2% of the total samples and in two thirds of the vegetarian products tested. It found evidence of chicken in 10 samples, beef in four samples, turkey in three samples, and lamb in two samples in products that were not supposed to contain those ingredients.
Clear Food found pork substitution in 3% of the samples it tested. In most cases, pork found its way into chicken and turkey sausages. “Pork substitution was an issue in products across the price spectrum being sold at a wide variety of retailers,” said the report. “Pork is a particularly unwelcome substitution in any food when you consider that significant numbers of people do not eat pork for religious reasons.”
The tests discovered 10% of vegetarian products contained meat. “We found chicken in a vegetarian breakfast sausage and pork in a vegetarian hot dog,” the report stated.
There were also inaccuracies on many of the nutrition labels. Labels of some vegetarian products exaggerated the amount of protein in the item by as much as 2.5 times.
Clear Food used the testing to compile a list of the top 10 most reliable hot dog manufacturers. In order, these were: Butterball; McCormick; Eckrich; Hebrew National; Simply Balanced; Aidells; Jennie-O; Boar’s Head; Oscar Mayer; and O Organics.
“Despite the problems we found, what was most promising in our tests was the fact that there are a number of hot dog manufacturers, large and small, that are producing high-quality hot dogs with integrity,” said the company. “These producers were not limited to organic producers or high-end speciality brands; products across a variety of price points scored well. Our biggest insight when analysing the data was that there was no correlation between price and [the result].
“We were surprised to find that prepared vegetarian sausages face some pretty serious challenges, including hygienic and substitution issues,” the report stated. “Finding even trace amounts of meat in vegetarian products is troubling, especially because many vegetarians abstain from eating meat for dietary, ethical, and religious reasons.”
Clear Food is a consumer guide to food based on DNA analysis. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, in 2014 Americans spent $2.5bn on hot dogs, another $2.74bn on dinner sausages, and over half a billion on breakfast sausages.