Sept. 25, 2009 - A microwaved hot dog isn't fully safe to eat unless placed in a dish of water and cooked for at least 75 seconds on high, a food-safety study shows.
Now that fall is here and the grill is covered, parents preparing a quick meal may choose to microwave some hot dogs. But under-microwaved frankfurters may not be safe to eat, warn Mawill Rodriguez-Marval and colleagues of Colorado State University's Center for Meat Safety and Quality.
The researchers spread dangerous listeria bacteria, a potential hot-dog contaminant, on frankfurters made with and without preservatives. They carefully measured how the bad bugs grew on uncooked hot dogs refrigerated for different lengths of time. Then they nuked them.
To ensure even heating, the researchers put two of the germ-laden hot dogs in a microwave-safe dish with about a cup of water. They then heated the franks for different lengths of time at different microwave settings.
The good news is that heating contaminated hot dogs for 75 seconds on high, at 1,100 watts power, made them safe to eat.
The bad news is that heating the fouled franks at any lower setting, regardless of time, left them crawling with enough bacteria to make a healthy person sick.
And there's more bad news: The water in which the franks were heated becomes contaminated. If simply poured down the sink, the researchers warn, the bacteria can find a new home, "potentially creating a reservoir for the pathogen that may later be transferred to other surfaces and even foods by either splashing and/or aerosols."
Fortunately, the 75-second high-power method nuked the germs in the water as well as the hot dogs -- provided the hot dogs contained the preservatives potassium lactate and sodium diacetate. Most common frankfurter brands, such as Oscar Mayer Weiners and Hebrew National Beef Franks, contain similar preservatives.
Rodriguez-Marval and colleagues recommend that hot dog makers provide product-specific microwaving instructions on frankfurter labels.
The study findings appear in the current issue of the Journal of Food Science.