The best way to be safe eating hot dogs is by not eating them at all.
What’s the first thing you think of when someone mentions a hot dog? I see a guy wearing a speedo, black knee socks and flip flops peddling his hot dogs down the beach in Ft. Lauderdale.
Do you think that’s bad? Try going to Boca Raton. On just about every road, you’ll see girls wearing skimpy bikinis with bright white sneakers serving your man his mid-afternoon hot dog. Because those are the people you want to eat hot dogs from.
People, especially kids love hot dogs. Hot dogs are beloved. There are even songs about hot dogs. Let’s be real, what’s not to like? It’s a deliciously spiced packed casing full of meat-by-products, which happens to be a few grades above dog food. To top it off, it has no nutritional value what-so-ever.
I know. You’re booing and hissing me; probably calling me un-American, but you know what? That’s okay. It doesn’t bother me one bit.
I’m not telling you, you can’t eat a hot dog. I’m just gonna tell you how to be safe when eating it. Just think of me as your food safety lifeguard (minus the skimpy red bathing suit and jogging in slow motion to the theme of Baywatch).
A hot dog is another form of a sausage; however, almost all hot dogs have been cooked, which is a good thing. Hot dogs and sausage typically have the same ingredients, but they’re both processed differently. Hot dogs are sold fully cooked, and sausage is typically sold raw and which most people undercook. If you’re one of them, you’ll want to read my earlier post about undercooked sausage.
Federal guidelines are here to protect you….maybe…
By federal standards, everything that gets ground up in a hot dog is required to be reduced to minute particles. This includes semisolid products made from one or more kinds of raw skeletal muscle (ground-up bones) from chicken, beef, turkey, and pork. They also contain hearts, kidneys, livers, and anything else they can find.
Federal guidelines also allow there to be non-meat binders in the hot dog, such as but not limited to, nonfat dry milk, cereal (not sure what type of cereal the FDA is talking about, but it’s probably not corn flakes), dry or whole milk or 2% isolated soy protein.
It doesn’t matter if the Rabbi blessed it
In all honesty, it’s not gonna matter much if Rabbi Bob (yes, he’s real and was my singing Rabbi)blesses the cows, chickens, and turkeys, it’s not gonna take away from the fact it’s all by-products.
As a point of interest, no pork hot dogs will ever be blessed by a Rabbi, so if your package of pork hot dogs says, Kosher; they’re lying.
Things to watch out for when eating hot dogs
Food Poisoning and Hot Dogs
Never eat a cold hot dog
Hot dogs should never be eaten cold. Regardless if they’re fully cooked unless they were steaming hot before serving, they can still become contaminated with Listeria.
Even if you pulled the hot dog out of the package from the fridge and ate it, there’s a very high possibility you’ll get food poisoning.
Kids love hot dogs. There’s no way around it. The issue comes into play when you cook your kids hot dogs and let them cool off before giving it to them with a side of spaghetti-o. The problem that happens with this is, children are more susceptible to contract a foodborne illness.
Hot dogs should be served steaming hot. As the hot dog cools it reaches the danger zone quicker than most foods. Listeria is the culprit that typically hangs around in hot dogs.
Symptoms of Listeria (listeriosis) include fever, chills, headache, backache, upset stomach, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. You can get a print out of the symptoms of food poisoning HERE.
Now, here’s the kicker. It can take up to 3 weeks for the symptoms to appear. 3 weeks! By then you, your kids, your spouse, and your parents probably ate so much stuff, you’d never know it was the hot dog that made you sick.
Craving or not, pregnant women should never eat hot dogs. If you know someone who’s pregnant please advise them to never eat a hot dog. Although delicious, (especially when served on a stick wrapped in sweet cornmeal), it’s seriously bad news; not only for the momma but for the baby as well.
The most important food safety tips you’ll need to know about buying, serving, and eating hot dogs
Cut the hot dogs up before giving them to kids
For kids under the age of 4, hot dogs can cause a choking hazard. The American Academy of Pediatrics, advises to prevent choking, you should cut the hot dogs lengthwise or into very small pieces before giving them to your kids. If the hot dog has a casing, (like most do), it would be wise to peel it off, since that too is a choking hazard.
Bringing home your hot dogs from the grocery store
If you bought hot dogs while at the grocery store, the first thing you need to do when you get home is to refrigerate or freeze them immediately. If there’s no date on the package, they can be stored safely in the fridge for about 2 weeks unopened. Once you open the package, discard it after a week if you still haven’t used them.
Don’t freeze your hot dogs for more than 1 to 2 months, and never leave them at room temperature for more than 2 hours, or an hour if the temperature rises higher than 90°.
Dates on your hot dogs
Most of the dates on the packaging of your hot dogs can be ignored except for the “use-by” date. Hot dogs can’t live in the freezer forever and will need to be cooked before the “use-by” date.
Although I’m not a huge advocate on buying anything without a date printed on the packaging; the FDA gives carte blanche to hot dog manufactures, and doesn’t require it.
Talk about shattering my FDA fan girl moment.
Regardless if you’re a fan of the hot dog, or your kinda like me. You can take them or leave them. Please remember to always use good food hygiene practices, when preparing, cooking or eating hot dogs.
How often do you prepare hot dogs for your family? Share in a comment.
Until we meet again,