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6 things you don’t want to know about hot dogs

Hot dogs are cheap, fast hot food. They're nothing special so you won't have given much thought to them but maybe you should. Obviously, you know you're not eating fine cuisine when you bite into a hot dog, but do you realise just how bad they are for you? How much meat do you think you're getting with an average hot dog sausage? Even the rolls they come in aren't great for your digestive system. After you've read this, you won't want to eat another one.

Calories

Let's begin by looking at the calorie content of the average hot dog. You might be surprised to read that an all-beef hot dog and a white-bread bun is just 270 calories. For a man, that's around 10 per cent of the recommended calorie intake to maintain a healthy body weight. For women, it's 13 per cent of their daily calorie intake. To put that into context, a beefburger in a bun is around 460 calories.

Food poisoning

Hot dogs are cheap and quick food when you're preparing a warm one to eat with a cold beer, but what about eating them straight out of the fridge? You'd think that would be OK because hot dogs are already cooked, but that's not always the case. Eating the hot dog straight from the fridge can lead to food poisoning. That's because they can become contaminated with harmful bacteria, including Listeria and Staphylococcus aureus during the preparation and packing stage.

Meat content

How much meat do you think is in a hot dog? Usually, meat's listed as the first ingredient, so it's not hard to spot just how short-changed consumers are when they eat a hot dog. Studies show that you could be getting anywhere from 3 per cent to 22 per cent meat by volume. Even the 22 per cent doesn't sound a lot, does it? That should be the minimum amount, not the best you'll find. Water is the main ingredient. It's generally between 44 and 70 per cent of the hot dog sausage.

What else is in there?

Along with the meat and water, you'll also find a variety of tissues including one, collagen and blood vessels. Cartilage, fat and skin are also present in a hot dog sausage. That might surprise you. You'll be happy to learn that brain tissue is not often present. That's always good to know! You'll also be interested to know that you're eating what the industry calls "meat trimmings". That means meat left once all the best cuts are removed. Trimmings may include muscle, fatty tissue, animal feet, animal skin, blood, liver and any other edible products. You could also be chewing on "animal head meat" which means meat removed from the animal's head, so you could be eating a cheek or two.

Mechanically separated meat

The meat might be listed as mechanically separated meat. If so, what does that mean? It could mean that you're getting additional calcium from it in the form of bone shavings. If that's not enough to put you off your meal, let's have a look at exactly what "mechanical separating" means. The meat recovered in this method is produced by forcing bones under a high-pressure sieve to separate the bone from the edible meat tissue. How appetising does that sound?

White slime

We've listed all the ingredients to show you precisely what you're getting, but what is white slime? That's something you'll be eating if you go for the low-end hot dogs. It's what's produced after mechanical separation. The edible part is a white paste-like substance. This sludge or slime is then pumped into casings to make the low-cost hot snack.

Competitive eating

Would you eat more than one hot dog at a time? It's not something we do that often in the UK, but in American competitive eating contests, the hot dog is usually the food of choice. The record for the most hot dogs eaten in 10 minutes is a staggering 74. OK, hot dogs go down quickly enough, but an average of one hot dog eaten every eight seconds is madness. For the record, Joey Chestnut is the one who consumed 9,620 calories while establishing that record at Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest in the US.

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