Stop! Before you put that hot dog in your mouth, take a close look at it. Disregard the mustard, pickles and chili - just look at the dog. For years we have all known that some pretty unhealthy things are wrapped up in that innocent-looking foot-long, but we were never quite sure just what they were.
Your intrepid editors have researched this earth-shaking question and now present the results
Mechanically Separated Meat (MSM) - a paste-like and batter-like meat product produced by forcing bones, with attached edible meat, under high pressure through a sieve or similar device to separate the bone from the edible meat tissue. (From USDA website)
Besides the "meat" that goes into a conventional hot dog or sausage, there is a long list of other ingredients that make them what they are. Along with spices, flavoring, water and salt, there are other additions which enhance color and flavor and maintain "freshness".
Binders - added soy filler, helps processed meat maintain shape.
Starter cultures - live bacteria added to ferment sausage
Phosphates - helps emulsion stability; known as the all-purpose chemical because it is used in dish detergents, meats and seafood, biscuits, toothpaste, fertilizer, cola drinks, pet food, canned fish and condensed milk.
Erythorbate -controls nitrite curing reaction, maintains color.
Dextrose - refined cornstarch, used to balance salty flavors.
Citric Acid - for tangy flavor.
MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) - a flavor enhancer. Research on the role of glutamate in the nervous system has raised questions about the chemical's safety, and it has also been studied in relation to migraine headaches, diabetes, asthma, atrial fibrillation and depression.
Nitrites and Nitrates - potassium nitrate and sodium nitrite are added to preserve meat longer than nature intended. They are used not only to preserve the product, but they are what makes hot dogs red and maintains their plump consistency. According to research from the Cancer Prevention Coalition, during the cooking process nitrites combine with amines to form carcinogenic compounds.
SO WHAT'S A GRILLER TO DO?
You can opt for organic or sustainably-raised meat products. Health food stores and the better supermarkets carry them. They contain no nitrites, additives, hormones, preservatives, fillers, artificial flavors and no organs or brains or "mystery meat"; just ground beef, pork or poultry.
Be sure to look for a 100% Organic label, as well as a Grass-fed or Free-Range label. Sea salt and cane sugar, rather than sodium and dextrose on the label will ensure a minimally processed doggie.