So what ingredients really go into a hot dog? Read on and you may never want to eat another frankfurter

Want to lose your appetite for hot dogs? Then  visit a frankfurter factory. It’s an unpleasant business.

In vast metal vats, tons of pork trimmings  are mixed with the pink slurry formed when chicken carcasses are squeezed  through metal grates and blasted with water.

The mush is mixed with powdered  preservatives, flavourings, red colouring and drenched in water before being  squeezed into plastic tubes to be cooked and packaged.

It is a disgusting process, for the hot dog  is arguably the ultimate in processed, industrial food.

In response to the pink, flabby tubes of  paste we serve our children, foodies have launched a movement for real  frankfurters — or ‘haute dogs’.

Next month sees the opening of Bubbledogs, a  London restaurant specialising in hot dogs and Champagne.

The new generation of sausages are lovingly  made from quality cuts, gently seasoned and smoked in the traditional German  way, and smothered with gastro sauces and relishes.

Originally hailing from the city of  Frankfurt, they were simply pork  sausages served in a bun and doled out to  the watching public for free during imperial coronations.

Various German immigrants then claimed to  have introduced the popular snack to America in the 19th century.

From there, they have mutated into the  processed sausage we know today.

Charlie Powell from the food lobby group  Sustain, said: ‘Cheap frankfurters are highly processed and have little in them  that will improve your health.

‘If they are eaten on a regular basis, they  cannot be good for you. They are one of the least natural foods I can think  of.’

And cheap hot dogs don’t just taste awful.  Eaten in excess, they can be disastrous for your health. There is now scientific  evidence that hot dogs — like all processed meats — increase the risk of bowel  cancer.

The World Cancer Research Fund recommends  people avoid all processed meats — or cut down if they can’t give up their  bacon, ham and sausages.

The fund’s Dr Rachel Thompson said: ‘If  everyone ate less than 70g a week — or two hot dogs — it would mean there would  be 4,000 fewer cases of bowel cancer in the UK each year.’

So just what goes into the hot dogs to make  them such a target for real food campaigners?


Traditional hot dogs are made from pork  trimmings — the pieces left over after chops, bacon and ham has been cut away — along with chicken or turkey.

The meat is ground into a paste and mixed  with water, preservatives, flavouring and colours.

Many UK hot dogs have a similar meat profile.  But not all.

Appetising? In vast metal vats, tons of pork trimmings are mixed with the pink slurry formed when chicken carcasses are squeezed through metal grates and blasted with water

Appetising? In vast metal vats, tons of pork trimmings  are mixed with the pink slurry formed when chicken carcasses are squeezed  through metal grates and blasted with water

The Red Dogs varieties on sale at Tesco  contain very little real meat. Instead, they are made up of 64 per cent  mechanically-recovered chicken. Only 17 per cent is pork.

Mechanically-recovered meat is the slimy  paste created when a carcass — stripped of all traditional cuts — is forced  through a metal sieve or blasted with water.

The process is banned for beef after the BSE  scare of the Nineties, but is permitted for pigs and poultry, and the meat  produced is ten times cheaper than normal meat.

Perhaps surprisingly, there is nothing  particularly unhealthy about the product, and it’s approved by the Food  Standards Agency. But under EU food rules, it is not classed as meat and must be  labelled as mechanically recovered.


Much of the water in a hot dog is added to  create the right consistency for the mushy paste, which is then squeezed into  tubes and cooked. It’s also needed to hold together the frankfurter after  cooking.


All sausages — from the cheapest, nastiest  brands, to the luxury free-range organic ones — are bulked out with carbohydrate  starch.

Hot dogs usually contain potato starch, wheat  flour or rusk mixed with salt, baked and crumbled.

Starches give more volume to a hot dog. They  also bind ingredients together, and make the mechanically-recovered meat and  pork trimmings feel more pleasant on the tongue.


Hot dogs contain around 2¿per cent salt and if eaten in excess can increase your risk of high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease

Hot dogs contain around 2 per cent salt and if eaten in  excess can  increase your risk of high blood pressure, stroke and heart  disease

Hot dogs contain around 2 per cent salt,  which means they are classed as high-salt foods — and if eaten in excess can  increase your risk of high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.

A single 35g frankfurter has up to 0.6g of  salt — one tenth of a teaspoon and one tenth of an adult’s daily recommended  amount.

Children aged four to six should have no more  than 3g of salt a day, according to the Department of Health, while children up  to three should have no more than 2g.

According to Consensus Action On Salt, salty  diets increase the risk that children will suffer high blood pressure as adults,  and increase the risk of brittle bone disease, asthma, stomach cancer and  obesity.

Milk  protein

Adding powdered milk proteins to the meat  slurry also helps to bind it. There’s no health risk, unless you are allergic to  dairy products.

Some hot dog manufactures use pea and soya  protein, which can also bulk out the hot dog, while adding to its protein  content.

E250 — Sodium  nitrite

Processed meat increases the risk of bowel  cancer and sodium nitrite is thought to be largely to blame. It is added to hot  dogs to stop them going grey, and keep microbes at bay.

Studies on animals have linked sodium  nitrites to an increased risk of cancer.

The World Cancer Research Fund carried out a  global study on the dangers of processed meats and found that people who  regularly consume 50g of processed meat a day — equivalent to one-and-a-half hot  dogs — increase their chances of getting bowel cancer by 20 per cent. The  charity believes nitrites are largely to blame.

In the body, nitrites can react with  protein-rich foods such as meat to produce N-nitroso compounds, or NOCs. Some  types of NOCs damage the DNA in our cells and cause cancer.

In 2006, scientists analysed more than 60  studies and found that nitrites are also linked to higher risks of stomach  cancer.


By law, hot dog packets don’t have to say  what flavourings are used in them. Many use artificial smoke flavouring, herbs,  spices, celery and garlic powder.

A few brands use the chemical monosodium  glutamate — MSG, or E621 – to enhance the flavour. MSG gives food a ‘meaty’ feel  and is used in soups, sauces and, infamously, Chinese takeaways.

MSG has been accused of causing allergies,  headaches and dehydration. However, despite the health scares, there is no hard  evidence that MSG is bad for you, and it is found naturally in broccoli,  mushrooms and tomatoes.

E451 — Potassium  and sodium triphosphates

Popular: A few brands use the chemical monosodium glutamate ¿ MSG, or E621 ¿ to enhance the flavour. MSG gives food a ¿meaty¿ feel and is used in soups, sauces and, infamously, Chinese takeaways

Popular: A few brands use the chemical monosodium  glutamate – MSG, or  E621 to enhance the flavour. It is particularly popular in  Chinese cuisine

These are synthetically produced colourless  salts that act as a ‘stabiliser, buffer and emulsion’.

They give a hot dog a firmer texture, keep it  at the right acidity and allow the oils and fats to mix with the water.

E451 is also used in detergents as a water  softener, and is added to flame retardants, paper, rubber and  anti-freeze.

There are no known health problems from  consuming them.

E452 — Polyphosphates

Another additive common in food. E452 is an  emulsifier and stabiliser, improving the texture of the hot dog and stopping fat  going rancid. It also helps prevent food-poisoning bugs.

In the human body, E452 breaks down into  phosphate and there is no evidence of a health risk.

E301 — Sodium  ascorbate

A form of vitamin C, sodium ascorbate is an  antioxidant and acidity regulator that stops meat losing its red colour and  which speeds up the curing process.

At the low doses in hot dogs, it causes no  problems.

But when taken in large doses as a vitamin  pill it can cause skin irritation.

E120 — Carmine

Carmine is another word for the red food dye  cochineal, which has no health effects, as long as you are not allergic to  insects.

For cochineal is made by crushing up the  shells of small beetles. The shells are boiled in ammonia or sodium carbonate  and the colour filtered off.

The colour, found in supermarket curries,  yoghurts, lipstick and pink icing, can trigger allergic reactions and even  anaphylactic shock in some people.

E160c — Paprika  extract

Another natural food colouring, this time  made from the dried pods of Indian red chillies. It is often added to cheese,  orange juice, sauces and sweets.

And  finally…

Even if you buy only the finest, most natural  hot dogs, you’re not out of the woods.

For hot dogs are one of the most dangerous  foods you can give to young children. In America, they account for an  extraordinary 17 per cent of all child choking cases and kill around 80 children  a year.

They are particularly risky for children  under four because they easily get lodged in the airway and are difficult to  shift.

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