Welcome to USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service Food Safety at home podcast series. These podcasts were designed with you in mind - the consumer - who purchases and prepares meat, poultry and processed meat, egg products for your family and friends.
Each episode will bring you a different food safety topic ranging from safe storage, handling, and preparation of meat, poultry and processed egg products to the importance of keeping foods safe during a power outage.
So sit back, turn up the volume and listen in.
Hello, and welcome to Food Safety at Home. Im Kathy Bernard, with FSIS Food Safety Education Staff, and I will be your host for this segment. With us today is Felicia Thompson, a frequent caller to the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline. Today, Ill be answering Felicias questions about hot dogs and food safety.
Hello Felicia, welcome to the show.
Thank you for inviting me.
Hot dogs are an American staple, a fun summertime food, and very popular between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Also known as Frankfurters, Franks, or wieners, hot dogs are cooked, sometimes smoked sausages that are made from beef, pork, turkey, chicken, or a combination of meats. Smoking and curing adds flavor and color.
I have seen different labels on hot dogs: such as Beef Franks, Pork Franks, Turkey Franks and Chicken Franks. Can you tell me what the differences are?
Beef Franks and Pork Franks contain meat from a single species and do not include byproducts. Turkey Franks and Chicken Franks contain turkey or chicken and turkey or chicken skin and fat, in proportion to a turkey or chicken carcass.
That brings up a question
.What are byproducts?
Byproducts are items like heart, kidney and liver.
What about dates? Ive noticed that some hot dog packages are dated. What do the dates mean?
Well Felicia, I should first mention that product dating is voluntary and not required by Federal regulations, but if a date is used, the package label must specify what it means.
"Sell-By" date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires.
"Best if Used By (or Before)" date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
"Use-By" date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.
Very interesting. Hot dogs are fully cooked, and I know they are processed to last longer than other meat, but they can they still spoil? How long can I keep hot dogs?
When buying hot dogs, refrigerate or freeze them immediately. Keep unopened packages of hot dogs in your refrigerator for up to two weeks. One week for an opened package.
Use frozen hot dogs within two months for best quality, but they will stay safe indefinitely in the freezer.
Great! Now I know that I cant keep hot dogs in the refrigerator for months!
Now, can hot dogs harbor foodborne bacteria?
Yes, although hot dogs are fully cooked, they can become contaminated after processing. They may become contaminated with
Listeria can cause a disease called listeriosis. Symptoms of listeriosis can include fever, muscle aches, and sometimes gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea. In some cases, the infection can spread to the nervous system and symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions can occur. Infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth, premature delivery, or infection of the newborn.
For added precaution, those at risk for foodborne illness, such as pregnant women, young children, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems should reheat hot dogs until steaming hot or 165 degrees Fahrenheit before eating.
Very helpful information. Can you think of anything else I should know?
Follow the four simple steps to Be Food Safe:
- Clean. Bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get on hands, cutting boards, knives, and countertops. Frequent cleaning with hot, soapy water can keep that from happening.
Separate. Cross-contamination is how bacteria spread. Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and their juices away from ready-to-eat food.
Cook. Even for experienced cooks, improper heating and preparation of food means bacteria can survive.
Chill. Bacteria grow fastest at temperatures between forty degrees Fahrenheit and one hundred and forty degrees Fahrenheit, so chilling food properly is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. That means chilling food within two hours of serving or one hour if the temperature is above ninety degrees Fahrenheit.
Thank you Kathy, for inviting me to be on your show and for answering my questions. Can you tell us how our listeners can ask additional questions about the safe storage and handling of hot dogs?
Yes, they can visit the FSIS virtual representative, Ask Karen, which can answer food safety questions 24/7, at AskKaren.gov.
In addition, food safety fact sheets are available on the FSIS Webs site at:
They may also call the toll-free USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline, at one, eight, eight, eight, MPHotline (1-888- MPHotline). Thats one, eight, eight, eight, six, seven, four, six, eight, five, four (1-888-674-6854.)
Thats it for this week. Felicia Thompson was visiting the studio today. Thank you for your interesting questions about hot dogs. Im Kathy Bernard and Id like to thank you for joining us for this episode of Food Safety at Home. And remember, Be Food Safe.
Well, that's all for this time. Thanks for joining us today for another episode of food safety at home!
For answers to your food safety questions call USDA's toll-free Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline. That's 1-888-674-6854.
You can also get answers to food safety questions online from our virtual representative "Ask Karen" at
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Thanks for tuning in.