Hot Dog Ingredients: Nitrates In Franks And Deli Meats May Pose Cancer Risk

Couple eating hot dog together
These secret Ingredients in your hot dogs such as nitrate — a chemical that gives frankfurters their pink color — makes you more susceptible to cancer. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Hot dogs sizzling on the grill give an enticing aroma to remind us that summer is just around the corner. This American staple at ballparks, BBQs, and picnics, is the favorite summertime food to consume on hot days and cool nights alongside the juicy burgers. With over 20 billion hot dogs consumed every year in America, according to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, it seems like a lot of Americans are wreaking havoc on their health, consuming this delicious guilty pleasure.

Will Johnson and Trace Dominguez at Discovery News sought to reveal what really is in our hot dogs and why we should consume them in moderation. "If you took a package of mass produced hot dogs from the store, you'd find ingredients like mechanically separated meats, corn syrup, beef stock, sodium erythorbate, and sodium nitrate..." said Johnson in the Discovery News video. This is a major contrast from homemade franks, which include: meat, meat fat, grain filler (like oatmeal or bread crumbs), egg whites (to hold it together), and spices (wrapped in a collagen casing).

Unfortunately, unless we make sausages at home, we will be exposed to ingredients such as nitrates, commonly found in hot dogs and deli meats. Nitrates are used to help preserve the reddish hue of animal flesh. These preservatives have been linked to cancer.

“According to the American Cancer Society, studies have shown that the nitrates and nitrates found in heterocyclic amines have been shown to cause cancer in animals,” Dominguez said. Dioxin, also found in hot dogs, is a suspected carcinogen. When it comes to these carcinogenic chemicals, all hot dogs are created equal. Even those marked “organic” or “natural” contain these chemicals.

High consumption of hot dogs may also lead to a risk of colon cancer. One ounce a day, two to three days a week for women, five or six a week for men, is considered high consumption. So the next time someone offers you a hot dog and you’re well past your consumption limit, say no frank you.

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