Hot dogs are a summer grilling staple, especially around the Fourth of July. Here are ten things you should know about food safety and hot dogs.
1. Know the difference between sell-by and use-by dates on packaging. A sell-by date on a hot dog package tells a vendor how long hot dogs can be displayed for purchase. A use-by date is determined by the manufacturer and tells customers the last date recommended for use. Best-if-used-by dates help customers know the peak timing for hot dog flavor. We don't advise cooking or eating hot dogs that have passed their best-if-used-by dates.
2. Read the ingredients. Past studies have found that hot dogs containing nitrate can be a risk for childhood cancer, including leukemia and brain tumors. Do not buy hot dogs containing nitrite.
3. When buying hot dogs, consider serving sizes. Since hot dogs and other processed meats can increase your risk of heart disease and diabetes, limit your intake. Evidence suggests that even a 1.8 oz serving of processed meat can cause your risk of heart disease or diabetes to increase.
4. After purchasing hot dogs, always store them below 40 degrees F. The USDA Office of Food Safety urges Americans to "head straight home" after buying hot dogs "and refrigerate or freeze them immediately." It's best to store hot dogs in the freezer for no longer than two months.
5. Hot dogs can be stored in unopened packages for two weeks. However, after the package is opened, make sure you use hot dogs within one week.
6. Hot dogs should always be cooked in order to prevent foodborne illness.
Pregnant women and others at risk should never eat hot dogs unless they are reheated until steaming hot.
7. Use a food thermometer to make sure hot dogs reach a temperature of 165 degrees F.
8. When preparing, keep hot dogs separate from other foods and wash your hands and food preparation tools after handling packaged hot dogs.
9. Remember not to leave hot dogs (or any perishable foods, really) at room temperature for more than one to two hours. You can refrigerate or freeze leftover hot dogs, but only if they are refrigerated within two hours of heating.
10. Hot dogs can be a choking hazard for children. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to "cut hot dogs lengthwise or into very small pieces before giving them to children. If the hot dogs have a casing, remove it before cutting the hot dog into pieces for the child."
Hot dogs are a summer grilling staple, especially around the Fourth of July. But this American favorite can cause food poisoning and other dangers if cooks are not careful when buying and preparing hot dogs.
Listeriosis, a type of foodborne illness, is caused by eating food contaminated by bacteria and is especially dangerous for pregnant women, newborns, the elderly and adults with weak immune systems.
Don't assume that hot dogs are safe to eat just because they are pre-cooked. Ready-to-eat foods (including hot dogs) are in danger of becoming contaminated with bacteriaafter they are cooked. The bacteria that causes listeriosis can grow in the cold temperatures of your refrigerator.