Is the chemical aftertaste the reason why people eat hot dogs,
or is it some kind of bonus?
The image above was posted as a billboard near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, warning NASCAR Sprint Cup fans that hot dogs can kill.
So of course, there’s all kinds of hoopla. People serve their families hot dogs all the time. It’s a lifesaver of a last-minute meal. Isn’t this sensationalist propaganda on the part of the foodie police?
Well, yeah, maybe. But isn’t all marketing sensationalist propaganda?
Here’s how I see it.
- According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, just one 50-gram serving of processed meat (about the amount in one hot dog) consumed daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer, on average, by 21 percent.
Now, most people aren’t eating a hot dog a day (I really, sincerely hope). But other processed meats are no good, either, and lots of lunches involve lunchmeat (including my personal nemesis, the dreaded Lunchables). And 21% is a lot of percents when it comes to cancer.
Studies show a strong link between other types of cancer and processed meats.
- An NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study found that processed red meat was associated with a 10 percent increased risk of prostate cancer with every 10 grams of increased intake.
- A study in Taiwan showed that consumption of cured and smoked meat can increase children’s risk for leukemia.
- A study in Australia found that women’s risk for ovarian cancer increased as a result of eating processed meats.
- A review in the journal Diabetologia found that those who regularly eat processed meats increase their risk for diabetes by 41 percent.
“But I buy the all-natural, nitrate-free hot dogs, like Applegate Farms.”
Sorry, Charlie. I’ve got nothing against Applegate Farms specifically, it was just the brand that popped into my mind, but their all-natural label just means that their nitrates come from a natural source (celery powder or celery juice).
In reality, natural hot dogs may contain anywhere from one-half to 10 times the amount of nitrite that conventional hot dogs do.
The president of the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council counters that “trying to link a food product that has clear nutritional value with a product like cigarettes, which have no redeeming qualities, is inflammatory and alarmist.”
Ex-squeeze me? Clear nutritional value? Are you serious? Does anyone think hot dogs are good for them?
Here’s what makes up a hot dog: meat by-products and fat, seasoning (salt, garlic, paprika), and preservatives (usually sodium nitrite).
So what’s a meat by-product? Trying to nail down exactly what by-products are allowed in a hot dog, as opposed to, say, dog food, is a slippery proposition. The best I can do is from the USDA website: “semisolid products made from one or more kinds of raw skeletal muscle from livestock (like beef or pork), and may contain poultry meat.”
That vagueness is enough to make me not want a hot dog, frankly. I don’t love them anyway and I’m not gonna miss them. For the kids, we’ll treat them like any other indulgence– maybe once in a blue moon, when we’re actually at a major league ball game or at a county fair.
About 143,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer annually and about 53,000 die of it. Painfully.
My dad was one of those.
I don’t know. There are some risks worth taking. I don’t think this is one of them.
The taste of a hot dog just isn’t worth it to me.