This Magazine

Progressive politics, ideas & culture


Wednesday WTF: Hotdogs have had their day: Experts want a redesign

luke champion

A group of American pediatricians think the hot dog needs a makeover.

In a study released Monday, the team singled out the long tubular shape as the single highest choking hazard for small children and called out to the industry to redesign the Franken-meat.

Now I get we need to me mindful of the food we eat, and over the years there have been many studies, categorically damning virtually every food item one can imagine. I even agree that it’s probably time to reexamine the hotdog.

But it’s shape? I mean, come on.

Perhaps what needs to be taken a look at is the full 13 grams of fat per 45g serving size (five of that being from the saturated variety), or maybe 24mg of cholesterol, or the 513 mg of sodium. Then there is the issue of nitrates, but one of the many carcinogenic additives in a hotdog. Finally, the utter lack of nutritional content should also be considered. This is the real danger, not choking. Parent Central gives us the lowdown on this heinous threat.

In Canada, about 44 children age 14 and under die every year from choking and another 380 are hospitalized, according to SafeKids Canada. Almost half of those cases are from choking on food.

So just to get this straight, out of the 5.5 million children in Canada, 22 die from choking on food.  That is 0.004 percent, you are more likely to be murdered this year than choke on a hotdog weiner. In fact, that percentage is on par with getting struck by lightening.

There are many reasons to hate the hotdog, but let’s stay focused on the real threat it poses. Child obesity and poor eating habits have become serious issues in North America, a 2004 study estimates that 26 percent of Canadian children are either overweight or obese. The convenience and low cost of the hotdog has made it a staple in many households, making it a significant factor in determining nutrition in children. This is the issue that needs to be examined, not its shape.

It’s very easy to make media friendly statements like “even one death is too many,” but the reality is that number will never reach zero. As it is, it’s pretty darn close though. Even if hotdogs caused half of all food related choking deaths in children (they don’t), that still only amounts to 11 deaths a year. That is a low number. You could almost say you’re more likely to develop cancer from all the harmful carcinogens pumped into them, but that would just sound foolish.

Show Comments