Does Your Vegetarian Hot Dog Have Meat in It?

By Mike Pomranz |

Tina Rupp

Here’s a bit of a bombshell for vegetarians: After looking at 21 different vegetarian hot dog and sausage products, food testing company Clear Food claims they found that 10 percent of them (or essentially two products) contained meat. But the company hasn’t disclosed what the actual products were.

Clear Food is a recent start-up that claims to be the first company to create a consumer guide to food by using DNA analysis to compare store-bought foods to their nutrition and ingredient labeling. For their initial round of testing, they decided to go after some low-hanging non-fruit: hot dogs. The American ballpark staple has a reputation as a mystery meat, so it’s no surprise that a lot of the 345 products they sampled didn’t do so well.

However, it’s what their analysis discovered in two of the vegetarian products that might be the most alarming. “We found chicken in a vegetarian breakfast sausage and pork in a vegetarian hot dog,” the company writes. Making these findings even more frustrating, Clear Food doesn’t identify which products fail their tests, only which are worthy of making their “Clear List”—meaning they score 95 points or higher on the company’s 100-point scale. Instead, Clear List provides only vague recommendations like “If you’re a vegetarian… Trader Joe’s is a good bet.”

Since the company only looked at products from five stores—the others being Safeway, Target, Walmart and Whole Foods—you can draw your own conclusion, but at the same time, 21 products isn’t that many in total. It’s also worth noting Clear Foods doesn’t say how much meat was found in the samples. Not to say that the appearance of any meat in something claiming to be vegetarian is good, but a tofu dog that picks up trace amounts of pork because it’s made in a hot dog factory is one thing; a dog that’s half pork meat is another.

Clear Food is using this first report to try to garner support for a Kickstarter campaign to extend their research. Though their use of genomic testing is intriguing, some people would probably rather pay to know what they shouldn’t eat, as opposed to vague guidelines on what they should.

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