Is there any food more maligned than the lowly hot dog? It sometimes seems like it exists not because people enjoy the taste of a frankfurter, but because we just love speculating about all the secret and super-gross “ingredients.”Remember the first time a friend told you the horrible truth about hot dogs; that they’re actually made from lips and hooves and pig’s anus? For most of us growing up, it was one of those irresistible rumors—like how some rock songs have satanic messages if you . them backwards—that aren’t true but were endlessly fun to repeat.

For the record, no, hot dogs don’t contain anus. But pig anus may seem like a more appetizing option when compared with the latest hot dog accusation.A new study has just revealed that hot dogs might, if research is to be believed, have a little human DNA in it.

That’s right, human DNA. As in, homo sapiens. The other other white meat.

The study comes from Clear Labs—a food analytics startup based in Menlo Park, CA— which used “genomic technology” to investigate hot dogs on a molecular level. They analyzed 345 hot dogs from 75 brands, and found “human DNA in 2% of the samples, and in 2/3rds of the vegetarian samples.”

It sounds horrifying. And for most of the Internet, it was enough reason to go into full-on panic mode.

If you crunched the numbers, it was admittedly alarming. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council estimates that in this country alone, we consume around 20 billion hot dogs annually—or 70 hot dogs per person every year. And if this new research is in any way factual, 1.4 of your yearly hot dogs have bits of people in them.

Hope you enjoyed your lunch, Hannibal Lecter.

First of all, let’s all take a deep breath. It’s not like somebody found a pinkie in a Hebrew National. This information is coming from a study by a fairly new organization that’s using Kickstarter to fund much of its research.

Andrew L. Milkowski, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Wisconsin, says he’s “suspicious about the quality of (Clear Lab’s) information.”

After reviewing the company’s website and research, Milkowski claims that while the founders have a molecular genetics background, “as far as I can tell they do not have any expertise or scientific training around food or agriculture.” And they “provide limited information on their methodology. Do they have appropriate laboratory quality procedures with both positive and negative reference sample controls in their analyses? How do they assure there are no false positives?”

Milkowski adds: “Certainly their information can make some juicy headlines and promote their organization, but I personally do not trust any of it.”

(As of this writing, reps at Clear Lab have not responded to requests for comment.)

But let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that Clear Labs’ research methods and results can be trusted. How did actual human DNA end up in hotdogs? Is that even possible?

If you can stomach it, take a look at this video demonstrating how hot dogs are made.


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