It is difficult to exactly pinpoint when the hot dogs first appeared, or the idea of placing sausages and placing them in buns, or even the idea of mustards and sauce. Nonetheless, it is believed that pork sausages that were similar to hot dogs originated in Germany, Frankfurt, at that time hot dogs were simply pork sausages served in a bun. Hot dogs have been around since the 13th century and were mostly served for free to the public in the events of imperial coronation in Germany. It is believed that hot dogs found a place in America through various German immigrants.  Undeniably, a snack and staple food to so many people, It is estimated that American consumers spent at least $2.5 billion on hot dogs in 2015. In essence, the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council state that at peak seasons, from Memorial to Labor Day Americans consume at least 7 billion hot dogs.  Indeed Americans love hot dogs, but do we really know what ingredients are found in hot dogs?

Traditionally hot dogs were made from leftover pork trimmings; the meat was ground into a paste, mixed with preservatives, water, flavoring, and colors. Today hot dogs are widely varied in taste and the ingredients. However, if you pick any pack of hotdogs and read the category of ingredients you realize that the makeup in ingredient list varies insignificantly. For the most part, hot dogs contain of meat, mostly a combination of mechanically separated turkey, chicken, pork or beef.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), mechanically separated poultry is as “a paste-like and batter-like poultry product produced by forcing bones, with attached edible tissue, through a sieve or similar device under high pressure to separate bone from the edible tissue.” Hot dogs contain any proportion of mechanically separated turkey or chicken. Mechanically prepared beef is banned in the US but the process can be used for poultry and pork. To minimize risks of foodborne illnesses, hot dogs should not contain more than 20% of mechanically prepared pork. Secondly, USDA’s guidelines highlight that hotdogs should contain at most 10% of water, much of the water in hot dogs is needed to hold the ingredients together and also aid in mixing the ingredients to achieve the suitable consistency. All sausages including hot dog sausages are filled with starch.  Fillers are used to holding the sausages together. Most often, hot dog fillers are made using a combination of fillers and binders including corn syrup, dried milk, cereal grains, and cornstarch.

Hot dogs also contain a proportionate amount of salt. Of course, to extend the shelf life, hot dog producers use an umbrella of preservatives such as; sodium diacetate, sodium nitrate, sodium phosphates, potassium lactate, potassium lactate and so on. Though, approved by USDA, the use of sodium nitrate has of late picked controversies due to the fact that prolonged use of the ingredient has been linked to increased risk of developing colon cancer. Most hot dogs brands include an additional slew of flavoring ingredients such as paprika.

Carmine, a common food dye used to add color to most food products has no known health effects and is also used to bring the red color in hot dog sausages.  Numerous health debates are linked to the consumption of hot dogs, while many people altogether choose to not consume hot dogs. For the most part, there is nothing unhealthy about hot dogs. As a matter of fact, hot dogs have been approved for consumption by the Food Standards Agency. Nonetheless, studies also highlight that hot dogs account for a significant amount of child choking and should altogether be avoided in children under the age of four unless of course, you incorporate some supervision.