According to this report on hot dogs by Clear Food, some hot dogs have human DNA in them.

2% of the overall samples had human DNA present.

What would cause human DNA to end up in the hot dogs? Does this have any food safety implications?

  • 2
    Aside from manufacturing negligence, I don't know how anyone is suppose to answer this question.
    – Jay
    Oct 27, 2015 at 18:04
  • 2
    And this were 2% of 345 samples, so probably 7 cases. A hair, someone touching something without gloves... minor incidents, especially compared to international "standards". Ever seen meat being sold in a third (or even second) world country?
    – Stephie
    Oct 27, 2015 at 18:08
  • 6
    As for exaggeration: Ask yourself who publishes the data - a company specializing in testing food on a molecular level and selling their services to the food industry. Every lab will confirm that whatever substance you test will probably contain traces of other things. But Human DNA sounds really spectacular, doesn't it? And did you find an entry on how much DNA was found? This company specializes on finding traces... Don't imagine a finger in the hot dog but a skin cell or so, which we humans shed continuously and copiously.
    – Stephie
    Oct 27, 2015 at 18:22
  • The question was marginal at the beginning, but I think that with the edit, it became unclear enough to be close worthy. What does mean "Is the problem exaggerated"?. I don't see a problem defined anywhere. And many of the problems which might be on your mind (but we can't know which they are), such as "does this mean the hot dogs are not vegetarian anymore?" don't have an objective answer and are as such not a question appropriate for a Stack Exchange site.
    – rumtscho
    Oct 27, 2015 at 19:21
  • Ever meet someone who works in a food processing plant and doesn't have all his fingers? What do you think happened to the finger?
    – Sean Hart
    Oct 27, 2015 at 20:40

2 Answers 2


There is definitely no food safety concern here. While the report you cite makes a big deal out of this, implying that there's some kind of serious problem being detected here, in their FAQ they say:

The most likely cause is hair, skin, or fingernail that was accidentally mixed in during the manufacturing process.

It is unlikely that human DNA is harmful to consumer health. In general, we consider human DNA a hygienic issue that degrades the quality of food more than a public health concern. Human DNA in products in our opinion speaks more issues [sic] of truth in advertising, pricing, and overall transparency.

What most people don't know us [sic] that some amounts of human DNA may fall within an acceptable regulatory range. That means that some human DNA is often allowed, regulatorily speaking. The amounts we detected in our research all fell within the acceptable regulatory range as we understand them.

It seems they're saying that this is all totally safe and allowed (by the people whose job it is to keep our food safe), and that the issue is one of transparency. I guess they think that food manufacturers should tell us that, as permitted by regulations, there are possibly tiny and completely safe amounts of human cells in food. But that seems pretty over-the-top; it's true about all food, so we'd have to slap that label on everything we eat.

Bottom line, food is not produced in a clean room environment. It's not a bunch of workers in bunny suits, being careful to not let a single skin cell float into the air and end up in your food; that'd be incredibly expensive and not provide any real benefit. So naturally, there's an opportunity for small amounts of human skin and hair to end up in your food.

And as Stephie pointed out, this is basically a DNA testing lab. Of course they have very sensitive equipment (which they also brag about in the FAQ), so they're able to detect things at a level that really shouldn't concern you. So as Lars also mentioned, it's kind of incredible that they were only able to find human DNA in 2% of samples. That means that 49/50 hot dogs are actually produced to a significantly higher standard than required!

Frankly, I think that report is presented fairly dishonestly. They deliberately neglected to mention in the initial results section that this is all safe, and instead implied that it was a problem you should worry about. Saying in the FAQ "What most people don't know..." hammers this home; they know that most people don't know this, and still didn't bother to say so.


Considering that food is not produced in a clean room environment, I'm surprised that it's only 2% of the samples. Humans are still involved in the production of food. The pig is turned into meat by humans. Humans clean machines. Humans take random samples from the production process. Humans put the ingredients for the sausage into a mixer. Humans stock the machines that will combine bread and sausage. Humans stock the machines that do the packaging.

And the person removing the Hot Dog from the package and doing a DNA test on it is also a human.

  • 4
    Agreed. It is absolutely indicative of how sensitive testing for DNA can be. The test no doubt was specifically looking for human DNA mixed with massive amounts of plant DNA. // Can we do a head count on the product line please... Fred? Fred?? Has anyone seen Fred?!?
    – MaxW
    Oct 27, 2015 at 20:18

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