The DNA of hot dogs

by MEAT+POULTRY Staff
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Clean Food found 14.5 percent of hot dogs it tested had substitution and hygiene issues.
Clear Food, a food analytics firm, tested 345 hot dogs and found 14.4 percent had substitutions and hygienic issues.

MENLO PARK, Calif. – A food analytics company claims there’s more to the All-American hot dog than meets the palate. Clear Food, a unit of Clear Labs in Menlo Park, Calif., reported human DNA in 2 percent of hot dog samples the company tested and meat contained in 10 percent of hot dogs marketed as vegetarian.

Clear Food analyzed 345 individual hot dogs and sausages from 75 different brands sold at 10 different food retailers and found 14.4 percent of the samples had “substitutions and hygienic issues.” The company defined substitutions as when ingredients are added to the product but not displayed on the product label. Hygienic issues occur when “ a non-harmful contaminate is introduced to the hot dog.”

Clear Food also found human DNA in two-thirds of the vegetarian samples tested. Additionally, the company reported evidence of meat not listed on ingredient labels, an absence of ingredients that were listed on labels and meat in some vegetarian products.

Other findings include:

• 10 percent of vegetarian products contained meat such as chicken in vegetarian sausage and pork in a vegetarian hot dog;

• Vegetarian items accounted for 67 percent of the hygienic issues found during the analysis; and

• Chicken, pork, beef, turkey and lamb were found in products that weren’t supposed to have them.

On the bright side, Clear Food noted there are plenty of companies making hot dogs the right way. “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 a producing high-quality hot dogs with integrity.”

The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council notes there are many stories about how hot dogs are made. The council posted a video to its website to explain the process.

Clear Food aims to publish monthly reports that analyze the content of food products. The hot dog report is the Clear Food’s first; and it is crowdsourcing its next 10 reports on Kickstarter.

Behind Clear Food is Clear Labs which was founded in 2013 by software engineers and genomic scientists to create a genomic index of the world’s food supply. The startup uses technology similar to that used for human genome sequencing but applies it food products. The company has raised more than $6 million in funding from Felicis Ventures, Khosla Ventures and HBM Genomics.

The hot dog report is available on the Clear Food website.

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