Category Archives: Vegetarian Options

Attention vegetarians: there’s a 10 percent chance that the veggie hot dog you’re eating isn’t really a veggie hot dog

141110163713-hot-dog-file-story-topIf you’re a vegetarian, knows that you’ve got a tremendous variety of food choices available to you that “replace” a meat product. There’s vegetarian sausage, vegetarian bacon, veggie burgers, veggie pepperoni for pizza and, of course, vegetarian hot dogs. Most folks we know have a favorite brand for a variety of reasons that probably include ingredient lists. A new study is pointing to the idea that if you’re a fan of vegetarian hot dogs, you may have more to think about than what’s printed on the ingredient list of the brand to which you’re loyal.

A new study is indicating that there’s a possibility that the vegetarian hot dog you’re purchasing actually isn’t vegetarian at all.  In fact, there’s a 10 percent chance that the veggie hot dog you’re eating isn’t really a veggie hot dog – it contains meat.

Perhaps worse, the company found hygiene issues in four of its 21 vegetarian samples. It also found human DNA in 2% of its hot dog samples — and two-thirds of the vegetarian samples.

Overall, 14.4% of the hot dogs and sausages tested by Clear Foods “were problematic,” the company said.

Clear Foods is a company that “translates quantifiable molecular tests into actionable food data insights,” according to its website. In English, that means it uses genetic sequencing to figure out just what’s in your lunch.

Its results on hot dogs aren’t always comforting. Overall, the company found nutritional label inaccuracies, pork substitution and some unexpected ingredients, including chicken and lamb.

On the other hand, Clear gave high marks to a variety of manufacturers, both national and regional. Butterball, McCormick, Eckrich and Hebrew National led among national brands, each with a score of 96 out of 100, based on Clear’s formula.

This information is particularly disturbing. Vegetarians need to be able to trust the brands they rely on to keep meat out of their products. In addition, wants to note the hygiene issues suggested by the finding of human DNA in a variety of different hot dog brands, as well as the presence of pork where no pork was supposed to be used, as well as a few other unpleasant items of note, truly create an incredible violation of trust between hot dog consumers and food manufacturers.

14.4% of the hot dogs samples in Clear Food’s study had some sort of a problem: vegetarian hot dogs containing meat; nutritional label inaccuracies; hygienic issues; ingredient substitutions and more. Read the results of the study here at for the full details and the brands included in the analysis.

Consumers petition McDonald’s for a McVeggie

We’re not fast food fans. has detailed the long lists of controversial ingredients and copious amounts of fat, salt and sugar contained in the majority of fast food options available to consumers. Nutritional benefits and fast foods are not synonymous. While major chains have added salads to their menus in hopes of finding an audience of more health-conscious consumers, a little digging will tell anyone that even those salads leave something to be desired. And if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, those are your only options at some of those restaurants. And McDonald’s is one of them.

McDonald’s introduced a veggie burger in the early 2000′s, but it failed to gain a following. But health and wellness author and activist Kathy Freston, believes it’s time for that veggie burger to make a comeback.

She has collected more than 90,000 signatures for a petition urging McDonald’s to debut a vegetarian burger. Adding some publicity wattage to the campaign are celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Russell Simmons, Pamela Anderson and Alicia Silverstone, who have supported the effort on social media.

It remains to be seen whether McDonald’s will listen the way Taco Bell did when an Arkansas man embarked on a decidedly less health-conscious Facebook campaign to marry Doritos chips with Taco Bell tacos. The resulting Doritos Locos Tacos have been one of the chain’s best-selling products ever.

Will McDonald’s consider the petition? A spokeswoman didn’t reveal much: “In our experience, menu items at McDonald’s are most successful when enough customers choose to select them,” she said in response to questions. “It allows us to ensure freshness of ingredients and overall quality of the food item. We’ll continue to evolve our menu to meet the changing preferences of our customers.”

Those healthy eaters haven’t been going to McDonald’s very much. The chain has rolled out a number of salads in recent years, but the company has said that salads make up only 2% to 3% of U.S. sales.

Ms. Freston, a vegan, said she wouldn’t eat salads at McDonald’s either, because they’re not filling. A non-beef protein patty, she said, would leave people feeling satiated. Ms. Freston, a regular talk-show guest who has penned several bestsellers, said she was motivated to start the petition on because she travels a lot and would love to pop into a McDonald’s to find something she could eat.

She points out that rivals like Burger King, Subway and Denny’s offer vegetable-based protein patties and that Chipotle has recently added tofu as an option to its burritos. She says McDonald’s recent admission that it has lost relevance with consumers could be rectified, in part, by becoming more vegetarian- and vegan-friendly.

“They’re not only not getting the new customers who are health-minded, they’re losing customers to competitors,” says Ms. Freston, who has been tweeting her plea but says she hasn’t gotten a response from McDonald’s.

McDonald’s restaurants in Canada began offering vegetarian snack wraps in August. “People always ask for the veggie burger. So this we’re going to surprise them,” McDonald’s Canada CEO John Betts was quoted as saying at the time.

In the U.S., for now, McDonald’s says vegans and vegetarians can customize orders to be made without meat. Ms. Freston doesn’t think that goes far enough. “I hope they know McLettuce won’t do the trick! I would love to meet with McDonald’s because they seem to mistakenly believe that a healthy plant-based option means eating a tortilla with lettuce,” she says.

We do need to point out that the veggie burger offered at Burger King is not the healthiest choice. A quick look at the ingredient list tells a story of numerous controversial items with an unhealthy dose of sodium. So we’re not quite sure that a similar effort from McDonald’s would tell a different story.

But in fairness to vegetarians everywhere who might like additional choices, this does appear to be an idea that McDonald’s should be willing to get behind. They may find that in 2014, a veggie burger might be more enthusiastically embraced than it was at the beginning of the new century. Times change and staying relevant requires the ability to change right along with them.

If you’d like to add your voice to Kathy Freston’s position, click here to sign: