Human DNA in hot dogs?: Veggie Hot Dogs Meat

Published: October 27, 2015

Human DNA in hot dogs?: Veggie Hot Dogs Meat, Your franks may not be being frank with you if you’re a vegetarian. According to a study from Clear Labs, a food analytics startup, 10% of vegetarian hot dog products contain meat.

Perhaps worse, the company found hygiene issues in four of its 21 vegetarian samples. It also found human DNA in 2% of its hot dog samples — and two-thirds of the vegetarian samples.

Clear Foods is a company that “translates quantifiable molecular tests into actionable food data insights,” according to its website. In English, that means it uses genetic sequencing to figure out just what’s in your lunch.

Its results on hot dogs aren’t always comforting. Overall, the company found nutritional label inaccuracies, pork substitution and some unexpected ingredients, including chicken and lamb.

On the other hand, Clear gave high marks to a variety of manufacturers, both national and regional. Butterball, McCormick, Eckrich and Hebrew National led among national brands, each with a score of 96 out of 100, based on Clear’s formula.

Clear Labs co-founders Sasan Amini and Mahni Ghorashi point out that, for all the discouraging results, overall they’ve seen few issues.

“Any type of problem you’re reporting tends to be a minority problem if you look at the overall hot dog or sausage industry,” said Amini. “This means that there are many (brands) out there that do not have any problems.”

Nevertheless, Martin Wiedmann, a Cornell University professor and expert on food safety, said Clear’s results lacked significance.

“This is telling us nothing new about hot dogs,” he said. “It’s a sensationalist marketing ploy by companies designed to sell their services.”

He observed that genetic sequencing may indicate something notable — or not. Clear’s techniques are proprietary, so for outside experts, the company’s results raise questions.

Clear Labs tests products for retailers and manufacturers “to do mass-scale molecular testing on their supply chains,” Ghorashi said. Through its arm Clear Food, the company does aim to become more consumer focused in the years to come. Clear Food is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign so the company can do more reports like the one on hot dogs.

Melinda Wilkins, a professor at Michigan State University who also specializes in food safety, finds Clear’s report intriguing.

“The use of genetic analysis in this type of setting is actually fascinating,” she said. “I think we’re going to see a lot more of this type of analysis happening, seeing how well food content matches food label.”

However, she would also like more information, particularly on the finding of “human DNA.”

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