Hot Dogs

Whether you call it a frankfurter, hot dog, wiener, or bologna, it's a cooked sausage and a summertime favorite. They can be made from beef, pork, turkey, or chicken -- the label must state which. And there are Federal standards of identity for their content.

Frankfurters (a.k.a., hot dogs, wieners, or bologna) are cooked and/or smoked sausages according to the Federal standards of identity. Federal standards of identity describe the requirements for processors to follow in formulating and marketing meat, poultry, and egg products produced in the United States for sale in this country and in foreign commerce. The standard also requires that they be comminuted (reduced to minute particles), semisolid products made from one or more kinds of raw skeletal muscle from livestock (like beef or pork) and may contain poultry meat. Smoking and curing ingredients contribute to flavor, color, and preservation of the product. They are link-shaped and come in all sizes -- short, long, thin, and chubby.

The most popular of all categories, the skinless varieties, have been stripped of their casings after cooking. Water or ice, or both, may be used to facilitate chopping or mixing or to dissolve curing ingredients. The finished products may not contain more than 30% fat or no more than 10% water, or a combination of 40% fat and added water. Up to 3.5% non-meat binders and extenders (such as nonfat dry milk, cereal or dried whole milk) or 2% isolated soy protein may be used, but must be shown in the ingredients statement on the product's label by its common name.

Byproducts, Variety Meats
"Frankfurter, Hot Dog, Wiener, or Bologna With Byproducts" or "With Variety Meats" are made according to the specifications for cooked and/or smoked sausages (see above), except they consist of not less than 15% of one or more kinds of raw skeletal muscle meat with raw meat byproducts. The byproducts (heart, kidney, or liver, for example) must be named with the derived species and be individually named in the ingredients statement.

Beef Franks or Pork Franks are cooked and/or smoked sausage products made according to the specifications above, but with meat from a single species and do not include byproducts.

Turkey Franks or Chicken Franks can contain turkey or chicken and turkey or chicken skin and fat in proportion to a turkey or chicken carcass.

Ingredients Statement
All ingredients in the product must be listed in the ingredients statement in order of predominance, from highest to lowest amounts.

"Meat" Derived By Advanced Meat Bone Separation & Meat Recovery Systems
The definition of "meat" was amended in December 1994 to include any "meat" product that is produced by advanced meat/bone separation machinery. This meat is comparable in appearance, texture, and composition to meat trimmings and similar meat products derived by hand. This new machinery separates meat from bone by scraping, shaving, or pressing the meat from the bone without breaking or grinding the bone. Product produced by advanced meat recovery (AMR) machinery can be labeled using terms associated with hand-deboned product (e.g., "beef trimmings" and "ground beef").

The AMR machinery cannot grind, crush, or pulverize bones to remove edible meat tissue, and bones must emerge essentially intact. The meat produced in this manner can contain no more than 150 milligrams (mg) of calcium per 100 grams product (within a tolerance of 30 mg. of calcium). Products that exceed the calcium content limit must be labeled "mechanically separated beef or pork" in the ingredients statement.

Mechanically Separated Meat (MSM)
A paste-like and batter-like meat product produced by forcing beef or pork bones, with attached edible meat, under high pressure through a sieve or similar device to separate the bone from the edible meat tissue. Mechanically separated meat has been used in certain meat and meat products since the late 1970's.

In 1982, a final rule published by FSIS on mechanically separated meat said it was safe and established a standard of identity for the food product. Some restrictions were made on how much can be used and the type of products in which it can be used. This restrictions were based on concerns for limited intake of certain components in MSM like calcium. Mechanically separated meat must be labeled as "mechanically separated beef or pork" in the ingredients statement. Hot dogs can contain no more than 20% mechanically separated beef or pork.

Mechanically Separated Poultry (MSP)
Mechanically Separated Poultry (MSP) is a paste-like and batter-like poultry product produced by forcing bones, with attached edible tissue, through a sieve or similar device under high pressure to separate bone from the edible tissue. Mechanically separated poultry has been used in poultry products since the late 1960's. In 1995, a final rule on mechanically separated poultry said it was safe and could be used without restrictions. However, it must be labeled as "mechanically separated chicken or turkey" in the product's ingredients statement. The final rule became effective November 4, 1996. Hot dogs can contain any amount of mechanically separated chicken or turkey.

Food Product Dating Terms
The labeling on a package of hot dogs may contain one of several different types of dates. Product dating is voluntary and not required by Federal regulations. If a date is used, it must also state what the date means.

  • "Sell-By" date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires.
  • "Use-By" date is the last date recommended for use of the product while at peak quality. This date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.
  • "Best if Used By (or Before)" date helps consumers by stating a precise date for best flavor or quality.
  • "Expiration Date" helps stores and consumers by stating the shelf-life or the last day product should be used while it is wholesome.

Safety After Date Expires
Except for "Use-By" dates, product dates don't always refer to home storage and use after purchase. But even if the date expires during home storage, a product should be safe, wholesome, and of good quality (if handled properly and kept at 40 °F or below) for a short period of time after expiration.

Food Safety Guidelines
The same general food safety guidelines apply to hot dogs as to all perishable products -- "Keep them Hot, Keep them Cold, Keep them Clean." Although all hot dogs are fully cooked, you should reheat them and make sure they are steamy hot throughout.

Studies have shown a high level of the harmful bacteria listeria on hot dogs. Thus, for added precaution, persons at risk may choose to avoid eating hot dogs or thoroughly reheat them before eating.

When you leave the grocery store with hot dogs, head straight home and refrigerate or freeze them immediately. If there is no product date, hot dogs can be safely stored in the unopened package for 2 weeks in the refrigerator; once opened, only 1 week. For maximum quality, freeze hot dogs no longer than 1 or 2 months. And, of course, never leave hot dogs at room temperature for more than 2 hours, or in the hot summer months when the temperature goes above 90 °F, no more than 1 hour.

REFERENCE: Code of Federal Regulations, Volume 9, Section 319.180