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Frankfurters Fall Short in Survey

Times Staff Writer

One of summer’s classics, the hot dog, was recently scrutinized by Consumer Reports magazine. The review comes just in time for next week’s Fourth of July festivities, which typically feature wieners in one form or another. However, the article’s findings are enough to give pause to even the most devoted frankfurter fan.

None of 63 different brands evaluated received the group’s top rating--thus the report’s headline: “There’s not much good about (hot dogs) except the way they taste.”

The judging was based on several different criteria, including cost per ounce, protein-to-fat ratio, calories and sodium. After the scores were totaled, each frankfurter was placed in one of five categories, ranging from worse to better. The scale is the same used by the Consumer Reports staff to rate all food and non-food products.

Among the Not-So-Top 10

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Only 10 of those surveyed placed in the second-most-desirable category. They included Nathan’s Famous Skinless Beef, Safeway’s Our Premium Beef, Hormel 8 Big, Ball Park, Safeway’s (beef/pork) Our Premium, Oscar Mayer Weiners, Weaver Chicken franks and a few other brands that are not available on the West Coast.

Surprisingly, the review was as critical of hot dogs’ high water content (in some cases more than 50%) as it was of the significant fat and sodium levels.

“Hot dogs are mostly water and fat. Descendants of the sausage, they’re made of odds and ends of meat ground with water and spices, pumped into casings, cooked and cured,” the article stated.

On the bright side, there have been some improvements in the ingredients. Frankfurters which in the past contained rather unappetizing animal parts such as lips, snouts and hoofs are not as common. The reason is that the U.S. Department of Agriculture now requires manufacturers to label such inexpensively constructed hot dogs as containing these so-called “variety meats.”

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Far Less Protein per Penny

The study confirmed suspicions that frankfurters are not a nutritional bargain. In some cases, the cost of protein per pound of hot dog could be prohibitive. For instance, in Hebrew National’s Kosher Beef Frank, the magazine calculated that consumers would have to purchase $30.65 of the frankfurters to obtain one pound of protein. On the other hand, it would cost only $12.50 to receive a similar amount of protein from ground sirloin.

“If you’re prudent about restricting the amount of fat in your diet, perhaps you shouldn’t eat hot dogs at all. And maybe when you find out what kind of food they are, you won’t want to,” the article stated.

Anything but Cool--This is also the season when wine coolers experience their greatest sales volume. The phenomenal growth of these combinations of white wine, juice and carbonation continues at a record pace.

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An industry newsletter, the Wine Investor, predicts that this year’s sales will increase by 100% to 200% over 1985’s 85.5-million-gallon total. The Los Angeles-based publication reported recently that 1986 shipments of wine coolers could reach as high as 250 million gallons.

The unquestioned sales leaders are California Cooler and Gallo’s Bartles & James, but the debut of Anheuser-Busch’s latest cooler venture could make inroads. The brewing giant is now in the process of distributing Dewey Stevens. It will be promoted as the first light cooler on the market and advertisements will be directed toward female consumers, according to the Wine Investor.

“The target market is health-conscious and physically active younger women. Commercials for Dewey will depict women performing aerobic exercise, playing softball, refurbishing a store, etc. Also, the package purports to be ‘feminine’ what with a soft blue color scheme and (easy-to-open) plastic twist-off cap,” the newsletter stated.

Bashing Imports--Another favorite of summer also experienced a little competitive heat recently. Three popular imported beers found themselves the target of some critical advertising recently from a small New England brewer.

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According to a recent story in Newsweek, the Boston Brewing Co., manufacturers of Samuel Adams Boston Lager, has been running ads that state “When America asked for Europe’s tired and poor, we didn’t mean their beer.”

The ad was prompted by the company’s president, Jim Koch, who claims that the three top imports, Heineken, Beck’s and St. Pauli’s Girl, are brewed differently for export to the United States than they are when distributed in their countries of origin. (St. Pauli’s Girl is brewed only for export.) The changes, he claims, make the U.S. versions lower-quality products than those available in Europe.

The European breweries involved in the dispute deny Koch’s accusations, according to the magazine.

Seizing Seasoning--The most common contamination vehicles for food poisoning outbreaks are frequently bacteria that develop in food from animal sources, such as meats and dairy products, or from poor food handling practices. But a recent episode detected by U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigators came from a most unusual source: black pepper.

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The FDA was alerted by Canadian health officials that salmonella bacteria had been found in a shipment of ground black pepper that had been distributed in that country. The bacteria can cause illnesses including nausea, vomiting, fever, headache, abdominal cramps and diarrhea.

The FDA’s New York office dispatched inspectors to the exporter, Colonial Spice and Extract Co. of Brooklyn. Product samples found at the facility tested positive for salmonella, according to an account of the case in the FDA’s Consumer magazine.

Three other Brooklyn firms that supplied Colonial Spice were also found to have salmonella-contaminated pepper.

As a result of the Canadian tip, more than $59,000 worth of black pepper was seized by federal agents. However, one of the companies was allowed to resell its lot because it agreed to process the spice with ethylene oxide, a gas that destroys the potentially harmful bacteria, the magazine reported.

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None of the suspect pepper has been found in U.S. retail channels.


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