A list of disgusting non-food things found in hot dogs

Happy Labor Day cookout, everyone! Maggots, worms, metal, plastic, a razor, and semen are but some of the many non-food substances callers claimed were in their hot dogs, in complaints lodged with the U.S. Department of Agriculture between 2007 and 2009.

More from Stephen Rex Brown, writing for The Local East Village, a NYT blog:

Back in 2009, this reporter filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking the U.S.D.A. to give up its dirty-dog logs. The 64 case files finally came in this week, just in time for the holiday! Consider them food for thought if you’re planning to grill during these last dog days of summer.

(...) One report told of a “winged insect that resembled a dragonfly inside the package of hot dogs,” and noted that the insect’s “head, eyes, and wings are visible. Insect is black in color, over 1-inch long.”

Of course, some of us are grossed out by the actual stuff that goes into hot dogs on purpose—random flesh and leftover critter parts. Veggie dogs for me, please.

More hot dog horror stories here, and view the actual documents here. If. You. Dare.

Image above: shards of glass were found in this package of hot dogs, according to a USDA complaint.

(thanks, Daniel Maurer and Jason Wishnow!)


  1. Just a reminder that hot dogs are not required to contain this stuff.
    So don’t hate the dog. Hate the maker of the dog which contains this stuff.

  2. Maggots, metal, bugs… jeez, any food could be contaminated with that stuff, big deal. I think what really grosses people out about hot dogs is the snouts/lymph nodes/nipples and lips that are actually supposed to be in them…

  3. I think the more outrageous things found in hot dogs must be deliberate sabotage at the plant by disgruntled workers, or fabrications by people wanting to extort a little spare change (or meat) from the packing plant. In my youth, I worked as a quality controller at a slaughterhouse/packing plant and can tell you that 1. Although hot dogs contain a variety of meat trimmings, the volume produced outstrips the trimmings available, which means some very good cuts of pork and beef go into the dogs. 2. When they opened up the smoke ovens where the hot dogs were cooked, I would often go in (after it cooled a bit, of course) and grab a few samples. At least one sample went directly into my mouth and let me say that no hot dog will ever taste as juicy and delicious as those ones, no matter how you cook them later. 3. I’ve never found anything untoward in a hot dog, although my wife once found a swatch of hide and hair in a corned beef sandwich.

  4. I fail to understand why anyone would intentionally eat a hot dog when Polish dogs and hot links also exist.

      1. Because the other ones are ass cheap. Probably as they are made mostly from ass

        Nothing wrong with eating ass. Rubbery, band-aid colored ass on the other hand…

  5. Everybody knows hot dogs are made of lips and assholes. If you’re ok with that, why would a little semen put you off?

  6. we need _more_ insects in hot dogs not less.  insects are the future.  being so much lower on the food chain, they’re a way more efficient method to get protein than from corn-fed cows.  what we should be freaking out about are things like bacterial contamination in our food, not necessarily insects.

  7. The document records whatever “callers said were in their hot dogs”. I’m sure they are all true!

    P.S. Mrs.
    Krabappel and Principal Skinner were in the closet making babies and I saw one
    of the babies and then the baby looked at me.

  8. “veggie dogs for me please”

    You might be surprised what’s in veggies. I went to an “eat a bug” talk and the Orange County Fairgrounds once. The was put on by the county health inspector.

    He pointed out that the 2 most common bugs you eat are 

    #1) Rice weevils.  They are in the kernels. You can’t wash them out. You cook them

    #2) Lettuce Mites.  They are in most lettuce. They are the same color as the lettuce. The are burrowed into the lettuce so you can’t wash them off. You don’t usually cook lettuce so you are eating them live.

      1. You *did* opt to read a story about “[m]aggots, worms […] in hot dogs” though, so I’d say you were asking for it ;-).

  9. “Veggie dogs for me, please.”

    No such thing.  You can’t just change defining ingredients and try to keep the name.  V8 made from eight kinds of beer instead of eight kinds of vegetable juice is not V8, any more than a hot dog with vegetables instead of meat is still a hot dog.

    Just call a veggie loaf what it is.  “Dog”?  No.  Dog = sausage = has-to-have-meat.

    Sorry, don’t have anything against wanting to eat vegetarian, but I get (unnecessarily) peeved when groups try to co-opt food words.  Counts for: langostino “lobster”, and the use of “organic” to mean a whole mish-mash of unrelated food production practices.

    1. V8 made from eight kinds of beer instead…

      Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

    2. It’s the veggie version of a hot dog.  So they call it a veggie dog.  Pretty simple.  Most people arguing semantics have an ax to grind.

      I love me some motherfucking veggie dogs.  With veggie chili, some organic tots, and a local beer.


        But for srs, I love me a good veggie dog or burger as much as the meat based ones. Different flavor profiles, both good with a beer.

    3. If someone made the beer concoction you suggest and called it “Beer8,” would you say they can’t do that? 

      1. Not at all; I was thinking something like “Beer V8” would be disingenuous, like calling a fried zucchini “vegetarian fried chicken” (or this hot dog example).

    4. your example is ridiculous. its a veggie dog.  since i know something with veggie in the name is very unlikely to contain meat, i use the context clues and determine that its as close an approximation to the real thing as a vegetable product can be.  i know it is intended to be a substitute for hot dog, not some random veggie loaf product–what does that even describe?

      i have had vegetarian breakfast sausage that could pass for the real thing.  it wasn’t great, but hometown buffet pushes millions of pounds of worse meat-based product a year–it wasn’t a disgrace to the term ‘sausage’.

  10. When I followed the link over, the first report stated that the caller felt glass on her tooth from the first hot dog when she bit into it, but was not injured.  The remaining hot dogs were “thrown away or given to the dog”.   What?!?  I can promise you one thing, and that’s if I found GLASS in my food, my next thought would not be to give it to the dog to eat.  Poor puppy!

  11. Hey that’s nothing!  Look what I just found in my carrot salad.  Is carrot salad supposed to stare back at you? 

  12. This is why I buy meat from a local smokehouse, including hot dogs.

    I just love logging in to make a comment and then coming back to the story and having to wait for all the ad tracking garbage to load again.  Almost makes commenting not worth it.

  13. hotdogs are delicious. that’s all that matters to me. but thanks for the vegetarian scaremongering

    you know air pollution will kill you before meat does…

  14. Growing up in a neighborhood that was pretty Kosher helped me avoid this kind of stuff.  100% pure beef! And believe me if any of the yentas in the neighborhood found anything “treif” in the food they ate and fed others, that news would spread like wildfire through the neighborhood.

    In contrast folks I met in the midwest really, really, really are wary of meat. And the vegetarians I met out there were truly paranoid of meat. I think I know why now!

  15. When you buy hot dogs that are actually branded “SuperSaver” and not called that because of a supermarket coupon, well, you shouldn’t be surprised at the ingredients…

  16. Although hotdogs aren’t on its list, the FDA’s Defect Levels Handbook makes for an interesting read. For example, did you know that your peanut butter can have no more than:

    – An average of 30 or more insect fragments per 100 grams;
    – An average of 1 or more rodent hairs per 100 grams; and
    – Water insoluble inorganic residue of no more than 25 mg per 100 grams?

  17. I’ve just discovered the joys of steaming hot dogs.

    I grew up eating boiled hot dogs, and I didn’t like grilled dogs because they tasted “burnt”.  I blame this on a few awful cooks, and past college I came to enjoy them the most when either grilled or pan-fried.

    I got an electric steamer for the likes of broccoli and crabs, and just realized last week that I could do hot dogs in it.  They’re soft like boiled dogs, but with a firmer exterior.  Maybe not a replacement for grilled dogs, but an enjoyable change of pace!

  18. I wouldn’t bet on veggie sausages being any better than the traditional mechanically reclaimed meat hot-dogs.  Just get your meat from a proper butcher, and pay the bit extra.  People in the west eat way too much cheap crappy meat.  Stop doing that, but don’t become vegetarian either.  We don’t have a strong enough ecology for a planet full of vegetarians, *or* a planet full of hot-dog eaters ;-)

  19. Hebrew National, dudes.  Even in the trailer park, those were the only hotdogs I’d eat.  They have to answer to a Higher Authority, don’tchaknow.

    I heard Carlin’s “rodent hairs, roach droppings, bug parts” bit at an early age, and never understood why anyone would eat Oscar Mayer or a Dodger Dog without a gun to their heads.  Be a big shot and fork over the extra buck for the package of kosher dogs, already.

  20. “Of course, some of us are grossed out by the actual stuff that goes into hot dogs on purpose—random flesh and leftover critter parts.”

    I can’t believe there’s fifty-something comments on here and I’m the first to point out that it’s a *good* thing that hot dogs make use of cuts of meat that you wouldn’t otherwise eat. Remember how everyone kind of nods in reverence when they here about how the Plains Indians would use every part of the bison? Well, when we turn the leftover cuts of meat into hot dogs or other sausage, we’re doing the same thing. If you’re not a vegetarian and are going to eat cut-up pig muscle anyway, what’s so bad about eating cut-up pig lips or snouts or whatever? If someone can take the things we wouldn’t otherwise eat and turn them into something appetizing by pureeing them and putting them in a tube, that’s a positive, not a negative. Would you rather they just throw it out and waste it?

    Are you the kind of person who throws away the fish head, too? For shame!

  21. If you think other sausages have less non-meat than hotdogs just because they happen to have a different name, I laugh in your general direction. 

    Also, dogs that are labeled 100% beef are, for the most part, not going to have more than incidental levels of non-meat. 

  22. People are always surprised when they find out that there are tolerances (i.e. acceptable quantities) of insects for all kinds of foods (most notably flour, where they end up as a fine powder anyway). Them’s the breaks, you _will_ ingest insects no matter what you eat. Just live with it.

    Industrially produced hot dogs are what they are; everyone knows (and presumably accepts) this. One question though, why would industrially produced veggie dogs be any different (statistically speaking)?

  23. Wait a second — there’s ingredients in hot dogs that I don’t want to know about?! Stop the freakin’ press! Next thing you’re gonna try and tell me soda is actually fattening and the sun rises in the east!

    1. I agree with cs.  You should only post articles that no one in your readership already knows, and never, ever discuss things which people might already find interesting. 

      (I’m being a very funny guy right here.)

  24. I only eat veggie sausages purely because of the gag factor, I have a rather over active imagination and biting into a meat sausage puts a picture of ground up assholes, vaginas, lips and tendons into my mind and my throat gags, veggie sausages don’t do this, what’s in them is irrelevant.
    It’s perfectly OK to eat, just doesn’t do it for me and I try to avoid processed offal at all times, which is pretty hard. Offal is everywhere, everything all the fast food outlets sell is offal. most meat slices, those cheap turkey/chicken joints, meat indian food, especially shite greek food..nope call me fussy, I don’t care. I won’t do me any good and eating it won’t do you any harm, I just can’t stomach it.

    1. If you’re gagging on a hot dog, you’re eating them wrong. 

      All you have to do is put your head back and tense up your stomach muscles…wait.

      “I have a rather over active imagination and biting into a meat sausage puts a picture of ground up assholes, vaginas, lips and tendons into my mind and my throat gags, ”

      Hm.   I find the notion of a vagina sausage intriguing…

  25. “There’s no dog in this.”
    “Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, soybean meal, niacin, dextrose, and sodium nitrate flavoring.”
    “Yup, that’s what we call “meat” back home.”

  26. People hate hotdogs for their use of “lips and assholes” but revere the Native Americans for their “using the whole animal”.

  27. Illustrative story: My grandpa was a farmer. He grew soy beans and winter wheat which, after harvesting, spent time in big trailers, and great big bins.  I spent part of the summer on the farm, and part of that time was spent playing in the wheat and soy beans trailers and bins. Kinda like swimming and playing in the sand at the same time, plus it smelled great. One day, I asked my grandfather how they got all the bugs out of the grain before they ground it up for flour, and he said “Get the bugs out? That’s just extra protein!” I didn’t bother to ask how they got all the dessicated mouse corpses out (they look like big chunky potato chips), but they probably can screen out the big pieces.

  28. After more than half a lifetime of consuming truly unhealthy comestibles (in prodigious quantities), I’ve cleaned up my nutritional act, so to speak.  No more red meat, white carbs, junk food, cream sauces, deep-fried foods of any kind, etc.  My blood lipids and other benchmark medical tests show a huge improvement in my overall health, and I truly feel like a new man.

    But I still find myself slipping into a 7-11, two or three times a year, for a spicy dog with chili and nacho cheese sauce, on a white bread bun.  It’s the one decadent pleasure from my former life that I can’t seem to kick.

  29. If something tastes good and won’t kill or harm you, eat it.  Why should knowing what is in it change the taste of it?  It’s the same thing before you knew what it was.  I had a friend who once tucked into an apple pie with gusto, enjoying it immensely, only to throw up when told it was actually zucchini.

  30. Let’s see… 20 billion with a B wieners made each year and 64 reports of nasty ingredients? That’s lower odds that winning the Mega Millions lottery at 1 chance in 175,711,536. I don’t know if I should stop worrying about finding things in my hot dogs or if I should just eat lotto tickets.

  31. I just got through about half of the document scans (reviewing them at a high level).  I was shocked by how many were closed out as isolated incidents when there were numerous reports of the same problem (e.g., maggots in bottom of can of beans and franks, thin plastic film in hot dog, hard plastic piece in hot dog).  They also note that they only look for similar cases within the past six months.  Since some consumers buy and then freeze hot dogs (as noted in at least one of the reports), they might not consume the hotdogs until months after the original purchase date (and that may be some time after the manufacture date).

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