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Hot Dogs May Contain More Than Just Meat According to Complaints Filed with USDA

Hot dog is by far the most popular fast food in the US. Hot dog consumption reaches its peak during the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day when Americans eat 7 billion hot dogs. The Time sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service asking to see the complaints the USDA received about foreign objects in hot dogs. Although there were only 38 official complaints (click here for a complete list), which is a surprisingly small number, yet, these revealed that people do, from time to time, come across some strange things in their sausages. The weird stuff includes:

Hot Dogs May Contain More Than Just Meat According to Complaints Filed with USDA

  • “Piece of bone measuring 1 in. by 3/4 of an inch.”
  • “A large ant.”
  • “A pill.”
  • “A large silverfish.”
  • “What looks like insect larva.”
  • “A clump of hair (looks like eyelashes).”
  • “A needle resembling an injection needle.”
  • “A sheared off portion of a metal box cutter.”
  • “A clump of hair or something ratlike.”
  • “The tip of a razor blade.”
  • “Glass and potential mercury.”
  • “A crown.”
  • “A dime.”
  • “A metal object” that “seemed like it was sharpened.”

All of these “foreign objects” were in complaints filed with the USDA from 2007 through 2009. Although it didn’t necessarily mean they were all true, it still prompted USDA to investigate these claims to a certain point.

Fortunately, in most if not all cases, the USDA concluded that there was no “pattern of neglect at the packing plant” and just informed the hot dog manufacturer. Fairly speaking, foreign objects inside hot dogs are still scarce. For one thing, there are 20 billion hot dogs made every year and only a few cases include “foreign objects”.

Although it’s quite unlikely that your next hot dog will be contaminated, you should still be even more cautious than this parent, whose complaint said:

I put a hot dog in the microwave for my toddler and while warming it started sparking and smoking which I thought was weird … but took it out and looked at it and didn’t see anything wrong so went ahead and gave it to him. After eating it he kept picking at his teeth and when I looked he had a piece of metal stuck between his teeth.”

If you by any chance come across food that starts “sparking and smoking” when you put it in the microwave, you will definitely want to avoid eating it.