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Techniques & Tools Food, Beverage & Agriculture, Technology

Hot (Dog) or Hype?

Clear Labs recently published a pretty damning report on US hot dogs through its consumer initiative Clear Food – the first of more to come, they say. Here, we introduce the company and present some of its findings – and ask what you think.

Who? Clear Labs, according to its own glossy website, are “The pioneers in food analytics” and it “analyzes food at the molecular level to help the world’s best brands differentiate on quality and stand behind their value.”

What? Clear Food is a consumer initiative that plans to publish “monthly reports that translate quantifiable molecular tests into actionable information consumers can use to find safe and healthy foods, at the best value.” The first report? Hotdogs of course. A North American icon. Anyone who remembers the 1988 movie “The Great Outdoors” may remember Roman’s (Dan Aykroyd) classic reference that suggested the main constituents were “lips and [...]” an unmentionable hindquarter part. The question, of course is, from what animal?

Why? The company uses an objective rating system called the “Clear Score” (trademarked of course) “to give consumers the information they need to make informed purchasing decisions”. And it provides the reports for free – so fair play on that front. But if you want to make a suggestion for the next report? You guessed it: you’ve got to go through its Kickstarter campaign.

How? Emphasis is placed on next-generation DNA sequencing at Clear Labs (the company purchased “every single food item” in the US, and ran them through an Illumina MiSeq) – especially for the Clear Food reports. But Clear Labs also uses non-specified “modern non-DNA tests” (presumably, referring to any other analytical technique). Apparently, the combined platform allows them to cover an impressive list: authenticity, GMO, contamination, gluten, heavy metals, allergens, antibiotics, hormones, nutrition, and pesticides. For the hot dog report, the company analyzed 345 samples (75 brands and 10 retailers) – now that’s commitment.

Clear results?

  • 14.4 percent of hot dogs and sausages had issues
  • 2 percent of samples contained human DNA (the majority in vegetarian products)
  • 10 percent of vegetarian products contained meat.

The report also offers a “Clear List” which only includes items with a Clear Score of 95 or more. Clear?

What do you think of Clear Labs and its initiative Clear Foods – hot or hype? Let us know

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About the Author
Rich Whitworth

Rich Whitworth completed his studies in medical biochemistry at the University of Leicester, UK, in 1998. To cut a long story short, he escaped to Tokyo to spend five years working for the largest English language publisher in Japan. "Carving out a career in the megalopolis that is Tokyo changed my outlook forever. When seeing life through such a kaleidoscopic lens, it's hard not to get truly caught up in the moment." On returning to the UK, after a few false starts with grey, corporate publishers, Rich was snapped up by Texere Publishing, where he spearheaded the editorial development of The Analytical Scientist. "I feel honored to be part of the close-knit team that forged The Analytical Scientist – we've created a very fresh and forward-thinking publication." Rich is now also Content Director of Texere Publishing, the company behind The Analytical Scientist.

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