There might be meat in your vegetarian hot dogs

If you're already suspicious about what's in a hot dog, drilling down to the molecular level may be even more shocking.

According to food researchers at startup lab Clear Food, who tested 345 hot dog samples from 75 different food brands, 14.4 percent of hot dogs “were problematic in some way.”

Those problems include finding meat in hot dogs labeled as vegetarian and pork in dogs label as kosher.  The report found human DNA in 2 percent of samples, two-thirds of which were vegetarian-labelled hot dogs.

To get the results, Clear Food used new technology to examine food at the molecular level which catches allergens and hidden additives other food tests can miss.

Clear Food identified other issues, including:

-- 3 percent of samples that claimed they did not have pork actually did contain pork (chicken products were especially “problematic”)

--Some vegetarian product labels “exaggerated the amount of protein” --with one item containing 2.5 times less than labeled.

--10 percent of vegetarian samples contained meat of some kind

The study also gave ratings to retailers and makers who provided the best quality dogs, singling out Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo as the best option for vegetarians.

According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, Americans eat about 20 billion hot dogs each year. Last year, Americans spent $2.5 billion on hot dogs, another $2.74 billion on dinner sausages, and over half a billion on breakfast sausage.

Clear Labs is hoping to sell its services to companies that supply the food chain and plans to create a division that will tell consumers about what's in the food they buy in grocery stores.

The startup plans to release a series of reports, published once a month, that will establish a scoring system to indicate the accuracy of a brand's label in terms of  ingredients, nutrients, and other information.