Usually when people are reaching for the vegetarian version of a meat product, it’s because they’re trying to avoid meat for some reason. Make that pretty much every time. So it comes as sort of shock to hear that some vegetarian hot dogs are not really so vegetarian at all. A recent study that was released by a food analytics start up called Clear Labs determined that as many as 10 percent of vegetarian hot dogs actually contain meat and aren’t vegetarian at all.
The company also found human DNA is 2 percent of its samples, and other hygiene issues in four out of the 21 samples that they studied. Overall they concluded that 14.4 percent of the tested hot dogs and sausages had some issues. Human DNA? What exactly is going on here?
The meat products that were found in some of the hot dogs included, pork, chicken, and even lamb. They also found that some of the food labels were inaccurate in other ways as well, namely that they over exaggerated the amount of protein that was found in the product. Some of the labels were claiming that there was 250 percent more protein than there actually was. The weird news is, that this wasn’t entirely surprising to certain people who work in the industry. In fact Martin Wiedmann, a Cornell University professor thinks that this is pretty standard.
“This is telling us nothing new about hot dogs. It’s a sensationalist marketing ploy by companies designed to sell their services.”
And here we thought we were eating what the food package said we were eating! The idea of having human DNA in a vegetarian or regular hot dog is more than unnerving, but again not too shocking to the professionals.
“When you’re working with genetic material, depending on the analytic technique, you can detect a very, very small amount of DNA that’s not supposed to be in there. So this accusation of finding human DNA in there, you can detect a very small amount, but they’re not quantifying the amount. It could be just a few cells versus a percentage content,” says Melinda Wilkins, a food safety expert and professor at Michigan State University.
Whether or not the company is trying to sell their services, it seems like this is pretty important information. Maybe more companies need these services.
Luckily even though they found some strange stuff during their study, they also concluded that most of the brands of vegetarian hot dogs were doing just fine. Brands like Butterball, McCormick, Eckrich, and Hebrew National all passed with A scores, so stick with those ones if these sort of findings are unappealing to you.
In a certain way this a good argument for avoiding processed food of all kinds, even if it’s a “healthier” option. Because anytime your food is being processed it has the potential to come into contact with, and in this case be made with, lots of other stuff that you might not want it to be around.