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Your Vegetarian Hot Dog Might Have Meat in It

And other facts gleaned from genetic testing of mass-market sausages.

Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images

DNA testing of mass-market hot dogs reveals that in many ways, they're just as mysterious and kinda-gross as you always thought.

A food analytics company in the Bay Area called Clear Labs is aiming to shake up the food manufacturing industry using genetic testing; its technology could eliminate food-related illness outbreaks as we know them, but there are plenty more applications too. The company just released the first in a series of reports called Clear Food that are intended to "guide consumers towards more informed grocery shopping decisions" by analyzing how closely the actual content of a food matches up to what the label claims.

For its first report focusing on hot dogs and sausages, Clear Labs analyzed 345 samples from 75 different brands and found, somewhat disturbingly, that 14.4 percent "were problematic in some way." A major problems was hot dogs that included meats not listed on the labels; 3 percent of the samples contained undisclosed pork, and 10 percent of supposed vegetarian hot dogs actually contained meat. Clear Food also found that some companies majorly exaggerated the amount of protein in their hot dogs, by up to 250 percent. There were some gross hygienic issues identified, too: Human DNA was found in 2 percent of the hot dogs.

Clear Food stops short of identifying which companies manufactured the problem hot dogs, but it does recommend which hot dogs to buy: Classic Oscar Mayer beef franks nabbed the top spot, followed closely by Ball Park and Hebrew National. For those who want or need to avoid eating pork, stick to kosher brands and avoid chicken sausages; vegetarians are advised that Trader Joe's is safe. It's also possible to read between the lines and figure out which brands may have had issues: Major manufacturers Nathan's and Vienna Beef are both notably absent.

Clear Food just launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund further research, and is letting funders decide what the company will analyze next: Possibilities include burgers, coffee, wine, sushi, and gluten-free products. Watch the Kickstarter video, below:

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