Hot dogs get a bad rap that isn't entirely undeserved. They're known for being filled with more than just beef. Plus, you probably heard about a brand new study that linked processed meat consumption to cancer. But vegetarian franks must be made with greater care and stricter guidelines, right? …Right?
Maybe not. According to a study from Clear Labs—a food analytics startup that uses genetic sequencing to figure out exactly what's in the food you’re eating—10 percent of vegetarian hot dog products contain meat.
Hopefully you have a strong stomach because that’s not the worst of it. Of the 345 vegetarian and non-vegetarian hot dogs and sausages Clear Food analyzed for this report, 14.4 percent were problematic, meaning evidence of substitutions (when ingredients are added that don’t show up on the label) and hygienic issues (some sort of non-harmful contaminant is introduced to the hot dog) were found.
Clear Labs noticed an absence of ingredients advertised on labels in addition to vegetarian hot dogs containing some meat; for instance, there was “evidence of chicken (in 10 samples), beef (in 4 samples), turkey (in 3 samples), and lamb (in 2 samples) in products that were not supposed to contain those ingredients.”
They also found “hygiene issues” in four of the 21 vegetarian samples and human DNA in two percent.
However, the report wasn’t all bad: Clear gave high marks to a variety of manufacturers, both national and regional, including Butterball, McCormick, Eckrich and Hebrew National. Each had a score of 96 out of 100, based on Clear's formula.
The bottom line: shop for trusted brands and enjoy in moderation.