It’s been a rough week for meat manufacturers worldwide. First, the World Health Organization classified red meats as Class 1 carcinogens, the class in which cigarettes are classified, and then Clear Food published its report on the disturbing content of hot dogs.

Clear Foods claims to use genetic testing to analyze the contents in the organic matter to verify or dispute the claims made on food labels, assigning each manufacturer a score based on their accuracy of food labels. “To create the score, each item is molecularly analyzed through our proprietary DNA sequencing workflow. We screen for major, medium, and minor substitution, and we deduct points accordingly. We then examine products for nutrition-content accuracy, such as carbs, fat, calories, and protein. All Clear Score calculations are run through a secondary-analysis pipeline, scrubbed for statistical accuracy and error, and delivered to consumers” (

The company just launched a Kickstarter campaign and have given donors the option to vote for the next food item to be tested.

In the first published test, Clear Foods investigated packaged hot dogs, including vegetarian hot dogs. The test analyzed 345 samples from 75 brands and 10 retailers. The findings were disturbing.

  • 14.4% of samples had problems where the contents did not match the label
    • 3% of hot dogs had pork that was not listed on the package
    • A small percentage of samples included unlisted chicken and lamb
    • 10% of vegetarian hot dogs contained meat
    • 2% of samples contained human DNA, which could signal the presence of bodily fluids or fecal matter
      • 2/3 of these samples were in the vegetarian hot dogs
    • Many labels inaccurately labeled

However, to avoid these contaminated products, Clear Foods listed Butterball, McCormick, Eckrich and Hebrew National as the most reliable manufacturers with total scores of 96 out of 100.

The response to this report has been mixed, especially among academics. Some call the research sensationalist while others are truly interested in the possibilities and findings of genetic testing on manufactured food products.

No matter what the academics say, I’m glad that someone is testing packaged food so that we can understand what exactly is in the food we eat!

By: Sarah Wright