Cold cuts are generally safe, but hot dogs can be dangerous (at least our food isn’t as bad as what they’re eating in China!) The big problem with hot dogs is the chemical nitrite that’s used to preserve them. It turns out that paying more for "natural" or "organic" dogs–or eating dogs made from turkey or chicken–doesn’t solve the problem–they can have as much of the cancer-linked preservative as the ones you buy in the grocery store.
In the July 2nd edition of the New York Times, William Neuman writes, "And almost no one knows it because of arcane federal rules that make the labels on natural and organic hot dogs, luncheon meats and bacon virtually impossible to decipher when it comes to preservatives. That includes products made from beef, pork, turkey and chicken." The current rules require products that derive the preservative from natural sources to prominently place the words "Uncured" and "No nitrates or nitrites added" on the label even though they ARE cured and DO contain the chemicals.
These manufacturers use celery powder or celery juice, which are high in nitrates, and produce meat that is identical to hot dogs dosed with synthetic nitrites. Neuman quotes sausage maker Bruce Aidells as saying, "If you actually surveyed consumers going out of their way to buy no-nitrate products, they’d be very surprised to learn that there’s plenty of nitrates in there. It’s very misleading."
Cancer researchers think that eating nitrites in processed meats can trigger colon cancer. Neuman quotes the American Cancer Society’s Marji McCullough as saying, "Nitrite is nitrite and consumers should be aware of what they’re eating."