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Food Puritans Attack Hot Dogs

Food Puritans Attack Hot Dogs

I'm tired of people who try to ruin the fun for everyone. I'm tired of these smug societal Puritans who can only enjoy life when they try to spoil everyone else's good time. Like the Calvinists who burned witches at the stake. Like the preacher dad from Footloose. Like people who call Christmas trees "Holiday foliage."

Now the food Puritans are attacking hot dogs and comparing them to smoking and causing cancer. A national group of hot dog haters recently put up a billboard near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the message "Warning: Hot Dogs Can Wreck Your Health" next to a giant photo of hot dogs inside a cigarette pack, and a web address for

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a special interest, no-fun group that promotes a vegan diet, wants to draw a link between colorectal cancer and hot dogs.

If you're trying to link hot dogs to smoking to colorectal cancer, I don't think you're smoking right.

According to the Indianapolis Star, the billboard will be ruining hot dogs for Indianapolis residents for about a month.

Susan Levin, the committee's nutrition education director, told the Star that hot dogs "should come with a warning label that helps racing fans and other consumers understand the health risk."

No, food Puritans should come with a warning label. We all need a few pleasures in life, something that brings us comfort and joy, even if it's only for a few minutes. We don't need you exaggerating the dangers of certain foods. If you want to do some real good in the world, feed the hungry, don't tell us what not to eat.

Hot dogs are not like cigarettes. They are not packed with addictive cancer-causing additives that the Big Processed Meat industry has lied about for decades, giving money to politicians to court the pro-hot dog vote. People don't have two-pack-a-day hot dog habits. If I go to a baseball game, I don't come home with my hair and clothes smelling like hot dogs. And kissing someone who has eaten a hot dog is not like licking a barbecue grill.

I wish the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine would actually be, oh I don't know, "responsible" in the message they're sending to people, rather than needlessly — and maybe even falsely? — trying to frighten people with nonsensical messages that stoop to the hysterical shrieking of a PETA campaign.

Hot dogs, when eaten in moderation, are not health hazards. Cigarettes, even when consumed in moderation, are hazardous. Do you see the difference?

But moderation is the key. Even the American Cancer Society says in their guidelines that "it is not necessary to eliminate consumption of red or processed meat; rather the message is that these foods should not be the mainstay of your diet."

If I'm going to trust anyone about messages about cancer, it's going to be an organization that has dedicated itself to the fight against cancer for nearly 100 years, not some fly-by-night organization that bought a $9.95 web address with "cancer" in it. Even the doctors the Star interviewed for the story said that hot dogs won't kill you as long as you're eating a generally healthy diet.

"A hot dog a day could send you to an early grave," Levin, a dietitian (i.e. not a doctor), said.

Of course a hot dog a day will send you to an early grave. A double-wide-you-need-12-pall-bearers-and-an-industrial-crane early grave. Hot dogs are delicious and good to eat, but everyone knows you shouldn't eat one every single day, just like they know 5 doughnuts a day is also bad.

Most people of average intelligence understand that you can't eat certain foods every day. Or they'll figure it out once they put on 10 pounds in three weeks. Everyone else forms advocacy groups to stop people from doing things they love.

But Levin says they're going to stand by their puffed up message, saying that it's needed to "make people think twice about eating hot dogs and all processed meats, including deli meats, ham, sausage, bacon and pepperoni."

They're going after bacon? What's that ad going to look like? Maybe they could do a mashup with the "This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs" ad and come up with a pretty tasty breakfast.

Just enjoy it while you can. Because the one thing that's truly going to send you to an early grave — or make you want one — is the frothing no-funnery of food Puritans who are never truly happy until they bring misery to the lives of everyone around them.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

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  1. What I don't understand is how these "no-fun Puritans" manage to convince anyone (particularly law makers) that their point of view is more important than anyone else's!! Not just on the hot dog issue either. A bully is a bully no matter WHO they are. And the rest of us just fall all over ourselves to bend to their stupid pronouncements! I'm not sure who is crazier, them or US???

  2. I'm pretty pro personal freedoms when it comes to things like this. We shouldn't have legislation about what people can eat. We should educate people about it, but never legislate it.

    But you're right, Mellodee, this is a bullying issue. Someone gets high-handed with a weird sense of power and a "if only people knew about this!" attitude, and they start shoving their views in everyone else's face.

    If I want to learn about the health risks of a certain food, I'll go to a source I can trust, not someone trying to scare the bejeezus out of me.


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