January 25th, 2012 - Jill Ettinger
The EPA is expected to publish an updated position by the end of January on what the agency determines to be acceptable levels of dioxins based on the Reanalysis that began last August. The report is expected to set upper limits on what is considered safe dioxin consumption levels.
Read More:Will Hot Dogs Become Illegal? EPA to Announce New Dioxin Limits
September 12th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Like lemonade, hot dogs are a summer tradition. But reading the ingredient label on a mainstream frankfurter is enough to dissuade anyone from taking that first bite.
Vegetarian and organic hot dogs are the way to go, and high-caliber chefs like Todd English have upped the ante with gourmet versions.
Since 2008, New York City-based Asiadog has sold organic beef hot dogs with internationally inspired toppings, including:
Read More:Asiadog Delivers Organic Hot Dogs in NYC
May 30th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Americans consume 20 billion hot dogs each year, but most of us are poorly versed in wiener lingo.
Mainstream and organic hot dogs contain the typical meats you’d find in the butcher case: pork, beef, turkey, chicken or a combination of these proteins.
Nonorganic hot dogs made from “variety meats” may contain liver, kidneys and hearts, but they must be labeled accordingly (i.e., contains “meat byproducts”).
Mechanically Separated Meats
Avoid eating frankfurters made from mechanically separated meats (MSM)—a process that creates a batter-like substance when bones with some meat tissue are forced through a machine, which extracts the meat from the bone.
Companies have been prohibited from making beef hot dogs with MSM since 1994, as they have been linked to mad cow disease in the past.
While mechanically separated pork is permitted, it must be listed in the ingredients statement. By law, hot dogs can contain no more than 20% mechanically separated pork.
In 1995, the feds ruled that mechanically separated poultry (MSP) was safe, but hot dog labels must list “mechanically separated chicken or turkey” in the ingredients statement. Poultry hot dogs may contain any amount of mechanically separated chicken or turkey.
Preservative & Health Issues
Nonorganic hot dogs contain curing agents, chemical enhancers and preservatives like MSG and sodium nitrite (or sodium nitrate), which manufacturers use to maintain freshness, coloring and flavoring.
In numerous studies, these preservatives have been associated with a higher risk for cancer. One recent study also linked hot dogs and other processed meats to a higher incidence of heart disease and diabetes.
Franks are high in fat, so if you’re going to eat them, do so sparingly (holidays and special occasions). Be sure to go organic or vegan to reduce your exposure to chemicals and preservatives. Add your favorite organic condiments or a special topping like Whipped Black-Eyed Pea Spread, Southern Roadhouse Barbecue Topping or Cracked Pepper Topping.
Read More:What’s in That Hot Dog?
May 19th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health have found that eating processed red meat—bacon, sausage or processed deli meats—was associated with a 42% higher risk of heart disease and 19% higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
The researchers did not find a higher risk of heart disease or diabetes among individuals who ate unprocessed red meat: beef, pork, or lamb.
“Although most dietary guidelines recommend reducing meat consumption, prior individual studies have shown mixed results for relationships between meat consumption and cardiovascular diseases and diabetes,” says Epidemiology Fellow Renata Micha, whose research was published Monday in the online edition of Circulation. “Most prior studies also did not separately consider the health effects of eating unprocessed red versus processed meats.”
The researchers defined unprocessed red meat as any unprocessed beef, lamb or pork; poultry was excluded. Processed meat was defined as any meat preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or with the addition of chemical preservatives. Examples include bacon, salami, sausages, hot dogs or processed deli/luncheon meats. Vegetable or seafood protein sources were not evaluated.
The results showed that, on average, each 50-g (1.8-oz.) daily serving of processed meat (about 1–2 slices of deli meats or 1 hot dog) was associated with a 42% higher risk of developing heart disease and a 19% higher risk of developing diabetes.
“When we looked at average nutrients in unprocessed red and processed meats eaten in the United States, we found that they contained similar average amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol,” Micha says. “In contrast, processed meats contained, on average, 4 times more sodium and 50% more nitrate preservatives. This suggests that differences in salt and preservatives, rather than fats, might explain the higher risk of heart disease and diabetes seen with processed meats, but not with unprocessed red meats.”
Dietary sodium (salt) is known to increase blood pressure—a strong risk factor for heart disease. In animal experiments, nitrate preservatives can promote atherosclerosis and reduce glucose tolerance, effects that could increase heart disease and diabetes risks.
Looking Toward the Future
Given the differences in health risks seen with eating processed versus unprocessed red meats, the findings suggest these types of meats should be studied separately in future research for health effects, including cancer, the authors say. For example, higher intake of total meat and processed meat has been associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer, but unprocessed red meat has not been separately evaluated. They also say more research is needed on which factors (especially salt and other preservatives) in meats are most important for health effects.
Current efforts to update the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are often a reference for other countries around the world, make these findings particularly timely, the researchers say. They recommend that dietary and policy efforts should especially focus on reducing intake of processed meat.
“To lower risk of heart attacks and diabetes, people should consider which types of meats they are eating,” Micha says. “Processed meats such as bacon, salami, sausages, hot dogs and processed deli meats may be the most important to avoid. Based on our findings, eating one serving per week or less would be associated with relatively small risk.”
Read More:Processed Meats Linked to Higher Heart Disease, Diabetes Risks
August 15th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
OK, get your mind out of the gutter. Let’s get down to business.
Lest you believe I routinely champion the all-American hot dog, let me voice my support for one of the Cancer Project’s important causes: purging hot dogs from school lunch menus.
Adults can make their own dietary choices—the good and the bad, the ugly and the “wurst.” As I wrote Tuesday about the Denny’s excess-sodium lawsuit: “Eating a Denny’s Scramble is a personal decision. Eating a healthy organic diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, is a more sensible one.”
Children, however, are captive audiences. I’ve long decried the insufferable advertising campaigns that fast-food chains have conducted to McBribe them. The Cancer Project also condemns such tactics, and I applaud their lobbying efforts to send school-supplied hot dogs straight to detention.
“As a physician in the Greater Philadelphia area, I have seen unhealthful foods increasingly contribute to Pennsylvania’s epidemic of obesity and other medical problems, especially in our young,” says family practitioner Ana M. Negrón, MD, a member of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). “Sadly, this problem is occurring nationwide. Hot dogs and other processed meats contain artery-clogging fat and cholesterol.”
PCRM petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture in October “to stop offering processed meats for purchase, subsidy and reimbursement under the federal school breakfast and lunch programs,” Dr. Negrón says. “The petition asks the USDA to encourage schools to include alternatives to processed meat products.”
“When parents, schools and doctors come together and demand more fresh fruits, carrots, broccoli and other vegetables; nutritious meatless options, such as rice and beans, oats and other whole grains; and model healthful nutrition, the children will learn to demand it for themselves,” she concludes. “In the meantime, it’s up to the adults to ensure that children are making healthier choices.”
For resources on changing your school district’s menu options, visit Chef Ann Cooper’s website. The “renegade lunch lady,” who sat on the National Organic Standards Board, has issued a National School Food Challenge.
Read More:Pull the Wieners
August 12th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
New Jersey seems to be the new hotbed for food-related litigation.
Yesterday, I wrote about the Denny’s excess-sodium lawsuit. Now, three Garden State residents are suing Nathan’s Famous, Kraft Foods/Oscar Mayer, Sara Lee, ConAgra Foods and Marathon Enterprises for failure to place warning labels on the hot dogs they produce.
As I reported in May 2008, American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) scientists found that consumption of processed meat (ham, sausage, bacon, cold cuts) raises one’s risk for colorectal cancer.
The class-action suit seeks to compel all five companies to place cancer-risk warning labels on hot dog packages sold in New Jersey. The labels would read: “Warning: Consuming hot dogs and other processed meats increases the risk of cancer.”
“Just as tobacco causes lung cancer, processed meats are linked to colon cancer,” says Neal Barnard, MD, president of the Cancer Project, which filed the suit on behalf of the plaintiffs. “Companies that sell hot dogs are well aware of the danger, and their customers deserve the same information.”
But the AICR and Cancer Project, an affiliate of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, have a tense history—what the former has called a “furious PR battle between two conflicting interest groups.” As we reported last August, AICR believes PCRM is spinning the data to promote an anti-meat agenda.
According to the data, every 50-gram serving of processed meat (roughly one hot dog) eaten per day increases colorectal cancer risk by 21%. This means that people who eat a hot dog every day have a 21% higher risk of colorectal cancer than if they never eat hot dogs.
According to the AICR’s official statement, the research “does not suggest…that an occasional hot dog at a ballgame, or a slice of ham at Easter, will cause colon cancer. What the evidence does show is that making processed meats an everyday part of the diet, as many Americans do, poses clear and serious risks. That is why AICR now recommends avoiding hot dogs, sausages, bacon, ham, cold cuts and other processed meats.”
The AICR is not taking a position on the New Jersey lawsuit.
My take: Hot dogs are by no means a healthful food, but they can be done right. Just ask San Francisco and L.A. residents who flock to Let’s Be Frank, which serves hot dogs that are free of hormones, antibiotics, nitrates and nitrites. Uncured franks are made from 100% grass-fed beef and organic spices. Italian sausages and bratwurst are made from family-farmed, humanely raise pork. Enjoy in moderation, dawg.
Read More:Should Hot Dogs Carry Warning Labels?
June 11th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
How do you top your natural, organic or vegetarian hot dog?
The answer may depend on where you live. Regional favorites include:
- New York—spicy mustard, sauerkraut
- Chicago—cucumber, tomato, pickle, onion, pickle relish, celery salt
- South—coleslaw, mustard, onions
- Seattle—cream cheese, onions
- Southwest—corn relish, bacon
- Greek-style—sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese, kalamata olives
- Midwest—melted Swiss cheese, sauerkraut
- California-style—guacamole, sprouts, sunflower seeds
For me, nothing beats the basics: organic mustard, relish and fresh onions. Other family members opt for organic ketchup and sauerkraut. Here’s what you’ll find on my summer shopping list:
- Heinz Organic Ketchup
- Annie’s Organic Yellow Mustard
- Cascadian Farm Organic Sweet Relish
- Eden Organic Sauerkraut
Whichever toppings you choose, dress the dog—not the bun. Apply condiments to the dog in the following order:
- Wet condiments (mustard, chili)
- Chunky condiments (relish, onions, sauerkraut)
- Shredded cheese
- Spices (celery salt, pepper)
Photo courtesy of Boar’s Head
Read More:The Organic Condiment Aisle
June 10th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Hot dogs get a bad reputation, and deservedly so. They’re high in saturated fat, sodium, nitrates, cancer-causing compounds and pig parts I have no desire to eat.
But summer isn’t the same without a juicy, grilled frankfurter on a toasted bun. Fortunately, there are healthier, lower-fat natural, organic and vegetarian cures for your hot-dog cravings.
The Great Organic Uncured Hot Dog from Applegate Farms is made from organic grass-fed beef, as are Niman Ranch’s Fearless Franks and Organic Prairie’s Uncured Hot Dogs. Organic Prairie also offers chicken dogs and turkey dogs.
If you’re a vegetarian, check out the Lightlife line of Smart Dogs, Tofu Pups, Veggie Dogs and Pretzel Dogs. Another meatless option is the Yves line of Hot Dogs, Good Dogs, Tofu Dogs and Jumbo Hot Dogs.
Be sure to top your dog with organic condiments. I’ll show you some of my favorites tomorrow.
Read More:Hot Dog Stand
July 13th, 2006 - Barbara Feiner
When summer barbecue season began, I wrote about organic hot dogs, veggie dogs and bratwurst, including tasty recipes for Spicy Cracked Black Pepper Brats and Hot Dogs With Whipped Black-Eyed Pea Spread, Relish and Mustard.
Well, there’s a new dog in town at natural and organic food stores: The Great Organic Hot Dog from Applegate Farms, a leader in organic and antibiotic-free deli meats since 1987. Made from 100% organic grass-fed and finished beef, these hot dogs are lean and flavorful. (Click here to view a cute product video.)
“I wanted to take America’s favorite food, create a delicious organic version and then make sure it was available in grocery stores throughout the country,” says company owner Steve McDonnell. “This is a hot dog I would happily feed to my children.”
Each hot dog has 8 g fat (compared to the average 15 g found in most hot dogs), with no growth hormones, antibiotics, nitrites or nitrates, gluten, casein, fillers, colorings, sugars or sweeteners, MSG or animal byproducts.
The Great Organic Hot Dog hit store shelves just before July 4, with a suggested retail price of $4.99 for a 16-oz. package of eight hot dogs. Click here to find a store near you. Click here to order online.
Read More:A New Dog in Town
May 19th, 2006 - Barbara Feiner
I’ve dedicated this week of blog entries to barbecue season—specifically, organic hot dogs, veggie dogs and bratwurst. As the weekend nears, I’d like to feature one last recipe from Chef Todd English of Olives restaurants. Author of The Olives Table, he recently worked with the Grain Foods Foundation to create the following signature sandwich recipe, which offers a new take on a traditional backyard favorite. All of the ingredients should be readily available at your local natural and organic food store.
“Bread is as essential to barbecue as the meat on the grill,” Chef English says. “Adding the right kind of bread, bun or roll enhances the taste of your barbecue creation.”
Hot Dogs With Whipped Black-Eyed Pea Spread, Relish and Mustard
- 2 cups plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 bunch rosemary, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 3 cups black-eyed peas, cooked
- 2 tablespoons roasted garlic cloves
- Dijon mustard to taste
- 12 hot dogs
- 12 hot dog rolls
- 2 cups bright green pickle relish
- Place a pot with 2 teaspoons of olive oil on the grill. Add rosemary and sliced garlic. Heat for about 1 minute.
- Stir in black-eyed peas. Add just enough water to cover peas, and then transfer mixture to a blender. Puree the mixture while slowly adding roasted garlic and the remaining extra-virgin olive oil in a steady stream. Once emulsified, add Dijon mustard and salt and pepper to taste.
- Place hot dogs on grill; cook until crispy and warmed through.
- Slit rolls down the middle and toast on the grill for 1 minute. Spread pea puree on one side of rolls and mustard on the other. Place a hot dog in each roll. Slit each down the middle and fill with relish.
Recipe and photo courtesy of the Grain Foods Foundation
Read More:Barbecue & Buns