National Hot Dog and Sausage Council Announces Official Policy On ‘Hot Dog as Sandwich’ Controversy

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News stories debating whether a hot dog is a sandwich have transfixed the country. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council Weighs In.

Hot Dogs and America Go Hand in Hand

Limiting the hot dog’s significance by saying it’s 'just a sandwich' is like calling the Dalai Lama 'just a guy.' Perhaps at one time its importance could be limited by forcing it into a larger sandwich category, but that time has passed.

Just as politics and religion can both unite and polarize, the question of whether a hot dog is a sandwich has stirred its followers’ fury, and unless settled soon, may go down has one of American history’s most polarizing disagreements. The deep philosophical divide has played out this week following National Sandwich Day on the NBC Today Show, ESPN’s Sportscenter, in NFL locker rooms and across the internet. Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina has also weighed in.

As the official voice of hot dogs and sausages, the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (NHDSC) is primed to settle this debate once and for all, and our verdict is…a hot dog is an exclamation of joy, a food, a verb describing one ‘showing off’ and even an emoji. It is truly a category unto its own.

“Limiting the hot dog’s significance by saying it’s ‘just a sandwich’ is like calling the Dalai Lama ‘just a guy.’ Perhaps at one time its importance could be limited by forcing it into a larger sandwich category (no disrespect to Reubens and others), but that time has passed, said NHDSC President and ‘Queen of Wien’ Janet Riley. “We therefore choose to take a cue from a great performer and declare our namesake be a “hot dog formerly known as a sandwich.”

The Council has often followed American history and USDA guidance on the issue and fallen on the side of the hot dog as a sandwich. When it first arrived on American shores from Europe in the late 1800s, it was often referred to as a “Coney Island Sandwich” or “Frankfurter sandwich,” but much like an “ice cream sundae” is simply referred to as a sundae, terminology changes.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidance also suggests the hot dog, as meat between bread, falls into the sandwich category, but the regulations paint a muddy picture as they hinge on the question of ‘open’ or ‘closed’ which could ignite a second round of debate where the hot dog on a bun is concerned. (See painfully long footnote containing USDA language.)

“While we thank the USDA for their careful regulation and inspection of our products, regulatory brevity is not their strength. We hope our position offers America some clarity and peace of mind. No matter how someone defines a hot dog, this much we can all agree on— it is THE great American food, beloved by all,” Riley said.

USDA Regulatory Definitions
Product must contain at least 35 percent cooked meat and no more than 50 percent bread. Sandwiches are not amenable to inspection. If inspection is requested for this product, it may be granted under reimbursable Food Inspection Service. Typical —closed-faced“ sandwiches consisting of two slices of bread or the top and bottom sections of a sliced bun that enclose meat or poultry, are not amenable to the Federal meat and poultry inspection laws. Therefore, they are not required to be inspected nor bear the marks of inspection when distributed in interstate commerce.

Must contain at least 50 percent cooked meat. Sandwiches are amenable only if they are open faced sandwiches. Product must show a true product name, e.g., —Sliced Roast Beef on Bread.“ This regulatory policy in no way alters the Department's present policy with respect to caterers who include meat sandwiches in their dinners.

Dinners containing a sandwich type product, e.g., a frankfurter, hamburger, or sliced poultry meat with a bun, are amenable and subject to inspection.

Established in 1994 by the American Meat Institute, the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council serves as an information resource to consumers and media on questions related to quality, safety, nutrition and preparation of hot dogs and sausages. The Council also celebrates hot dogs and sausages as iconic American foods.

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Eric Mittenthal
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