It's Been a Bad Week for Hot Dog Lovers

WHO says eating franks, bacon and other processed meats increases cancer risk.
Hot Dog

Hot Dog

©Oz Digital

Oz Digital

First, a recent “genomic” analysis by the online food guide Clear Food determined that 14 percent of the 345 different hot dogs and sausages sold under 75 brands it examined contained either ingredients not listed on the label or had “hygienic” issues, in which a "non-harmful contaminant is introduced to the hot dog." What’s more, 2 percent of the samples were found to contain human DNA. (Ew.)

Vegetarians get no bragging rights, though: Two-thirds of the vegetarian frankfurters tested contained human DNA, and 10 percent of all vegetarian products tested were found to contain meat — be it chicken in a vegetarian breakfast sausage or pork in a veggie hot dog.

Still, some major brands fared better than others: Butterball, McCormick, Eckrich and Hebrew National received especially high marks, as did some regional and specialty brands.

Now, on the heels of that alarming news, comes reason for frankfurter fans to feel even more fearful: On Monday, the World Health Organization announced that bacon, hot dogs, sausage and other processed meats “probably” cause cancer — and that red meat likely does so as well.

The WHO’s conclusions were based on an in-depth research analysis of more than 800 studies conducted by a panel of 22 international experts. The panel considered research that showed that eating an additional 3.5 ounces of red meat daily boosts a person’s colorectal cancer risk by 17 percent and that consuming an additional 1.8 ounces of processed meat each day raises it by 18 percent, as well as studies suggesting that diets high in processed meats contribute to 34,000 cancer deaths annually worldwide.

“For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed,” Kurt Straif, of the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer, which produced the report, said in a statement. “In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance.”

While the association was strongest for colorectal cancer, the WHO panel said that consumption of processed meats may elevate the risk for pancreatic and prostate cancers as well. Consequently, the group suggested that, although red meat has “nutritional value,” its findings support public-health recommendations that consumption of it be limited.

The North American Meat Institute called the WHO report "dramatic and alarmist overreach” and characterized it as simplistic.

“Scientific evidence shows cancer is a complex disease not caused by single foods and that a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle choices are essential to good health,” the meat industry group said in a release.

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer. In addition to contributing to Healthy Eats, she blogs for Food Network’s FN Dish .

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