Mythbusting Hot Dogs: The Truth Behind Common Misconceptions

The iconic hot dog is an integral part of American food culture. Americans eat many billions of hot dogs a year, especially during the holidays and at special events. The fact that hot dogs are a classic food item that has survived through the ages has resulted in people making some interesting claims about them. Some may be true, while others may be mere myths. 

What myths surround the humble hot dog? As we said, some are true, and some are myths. For instance, foodborne illness doesn’t happen often and, therefore, is not a severe issue. Or, if the hot dog looks spoiled, then it’s not safe to eat. And thirdly, hot dogs are pre-cooked, so it’s okay to eat them raw. And the list keeps going.  

The purpose of this blog is to debunk these “mythical facts” for you. Remember, a fact and a myth are two different things. A fact is supported by a credible source, while a myth is a folk tale or legend. So, without delaying much further, here are the 13 myths about hot dogs, debunked! 

1. Hot dogs don’t contain real meat.  

Most hot dogs are definitely not for vegans because they are made from processed meat. Usually, processed meat isn’t the same as the meat at your local farm. The majority of hot dogs contain something called “white slime.” White slime is a term used for “mechanically separated meat.” To the naked eye, the white slime can look like wet cement or paper mache. Although it might not look like real meat, it is, indeed, meat.  

2. Foodborne illness doesn’t happen often and isn’t a big concern.

Foodborne illness is a severe issue for everyone. Did you know that in the United States, foodborne illness is responsible for about 50 million gastrointestinal illnesses, around 130,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths? These are, in fact, annual figures showing that hot dogs are easily contaminated. 

Imagine a barista making a strawberry milkshake, and a fly enters the blender without anyone noticing. Would you instantly see that there was something odd with your milkshake? No! That’s how easy it is for hot dogs to get contaminated. And you’ll just keep on drinking it until you fall ill after some time.

3. Food can be harmful only if it looks or smells bad. 

Hot dogs are easily spoiled, contaminated, or rendered inedible without actually looking unfit to eat. Hot dogs are made up of leftover parts of animals. Since some hot dogs are made from white slime, you won’t notice anything odd. As a matter of fact, it will taste just as good as it would without contamination. Perhaps your palette is extraordinary, and you may be able to detect something odd. But it could easily be overlooked as the plausible change in taste is so minute.

Also, hot dogs that look “edible” may contain harmful foodborne bacteria that you can’t see. Remember how dangerous foodborne illness can be.  

4. Hot dogs don’t increase cancer risk.

This is a straightforward myth, as hot dogs are made of processed meat and have a grocery list of nitrates, nitrites, and other sorts of preservatives and additives. As a result, hot dogs can lead to harmful side effects, resulting in a higher chance of getting cancer. 

5. All hot dogs are unhealthy.

You’ll assume this to be a fact instead of a myth, considering what you’ve read until now. But, surprisingly, this is also a myth. Before you start scratching your heads, here’s why. 

There are farms, stores, and local food markets that sell organic hot dogs. Moreover, there are ethical brands that produce organic hot dogs. Some of these hot dogs are made with grass-fed beef and barely have foreign ingredients. In fact, these hot dogs may become part of your favorite keto diet. 

6. Hot dogs have fat, and all fat is bad for you.

Despite what fat-free food manufacturers say, all fat isn’t bad. Your body requires fat to feel full and energetic. Without it, you’ll feel sluggish and unproductive. However, that doesn’t generally make hot dogs healthy. There are big differences between good fat and bad fat. And all you need to know is that good fat does not usually come from processed meat. 

7. Hot dogs and sausages are the same.

Believing that hot dogs and sausages are the same may offend some people, whether they’re hot dog fans or sausage fans. However, there are distinct differences between the two. For instance, hot dogs are a type of sausage. 

8. The hot dog is the national food of America. 

While it makes sense to assume that the hot dog is America’s national dish, it’s not. In fact, the US has no national dish in particular, as each state has a signature dish of its own. So, for example, residents in Louisiana consider jambalaya their regional dish, while residents of North Carolina consider barbecue their regional food. 

9. Hot dogs are only made of pork.

While hot dogs are traditionally made of pork, other meats are also used. For example, some people prefer having hot dogs made out of chicken instead of pork. Also, chicken and beef hot dogs might be more common since some cultures avoid eating pork. 

10. Most hot dogs are pre-cooked. Therefore, it’s okay to eat them raw.

This is one of the most common misconceptions. Eating hot dogs raw could potentially be dangerous for you, and it’s recommended to reheat them until they’re steaming hot. In addition, reheating kills bacteria such as listeria and monocytogenes that may be present in the hot dog. So, the golden rule of thumb here is to always reheat your hot dogs before eating.  

11. Hot dogs can be great dog treats.  

Dogs love food, and they sure as much fancy hot dogs as well. Unfortunately, it’s not recommended for your pup to eat them. They contain a lot of added ingredients that aren’t healthy for dogs. Think of it this way: if hot dogs are generally considered unhealthy for humans, how could they be fit for dogs? The answer is that they’re not. If you want to train your dog by using dog treats, use healthy dog treats that contain balanced ingredients suitable for their digestion. 

12. All kids can eat hot dogs.

Hot dogs are long, cylinder-shaped meaty tubes placed on a fresh bread roll with the nation’s favorite condiments or a delicious relish. Sounds appetizing to you, right? Well, say this to your kids, and they’ll shout for hot dogs as much as they’ll scream for ice cream.

Although very cheap and convenient as children’s delight, they’re not very kid-friendly. According to multiple reports, there have been numerous cases of kids choking on hot dogs. So yes, these delicious delicacies are choking hazards for your child, especially if they are under the age of 3. In addition, you’ll have to cut them into significantly small pieces, and it’s tough to do that out on the street.  

13. Vegetarian hot dogs are super healthy.

If white slime hot dogs are bad for you, then the vegetarian ones are good. Not really! Veggie dogs might not be the best option; they are still processed food. In addition, some hot dogs labeled as vegetarian contained meat products of some sort.

All things considered

These are the 13 myths, debunked! As you can see, even the most logical of claims have turned out to be myths. It’s not usually a black-and-white scenario when deciding whether hot dogs are suitable for consumption. So, instead of finding yourself on the fence, just eat responsibly. 

We all deserve to have some enjoyment in our lives, don’t we? Save hot dogs for a special occasion like the Fourth of July instead of eating them every day. Or enjoy other tasty yet healthy alternatives instead. Just don’t go crazy with hot dogs, no matter how much you love them.

+ posts

This article was co-authored by our team of writers and editors who share one thing in common: their passion for food and drinks!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco works as a New York-based editor at Foodrinke, driven by his lifelong love for food. His culinary journey began in childhood, as he eagerly assisted his mother with her local sandwich and bakery business, relishing every opportunity to sample her creations. Known among family and friends as an easy eater, JC has a particular affinity for Chinese, Italian, Mexican, and Peruvian cuisine. At Foodrinke, he channels his passion for food into his work, sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge with readers.