Guy Adams: Here's one US symbol not worth saving

LA Notebook
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The Independent Online

For people prone to harping on about their European heritage, Americans sure make a mess of the sausage. You can find, if you look really hard, the occasional half-decent bratwurst. And there are some edible, if over-spicy, Italian ones on the market. But it's nigh-on impossible, in this vast nation of vast meat lovers, to source a proper British-style banger.

US health laws are to blame, I'm told: they forbid American butchers from using pig innards to make the sticky sausage skin and meaty-offal filling that transatlantic consumers enjoy. Instead, the country's favourite way to scoff mass-processed pork is by sticking a pink plastic frankfurter between two halves of a bun to create the culinary abomination that is a hot dog.

I've come to learn, after plenty of trying, that hot dogs can only be made bearable if their blandness is masked by ketchup, mustard, and pickle; sauerkraut, too, if you're at a posh vendor (but avoid the awful innovation of beef-based sausage). Then, particularly if accompanied by live sport and watery lager, they'll at least provide a star-spangled way to fill you up.

That, however, could be about to change. The American Academy of Pediatrics made headlines this week by calling for the hot dog to be "redesigned," and made significantly smaller, to avoid the hitherto obscure hazard of choking babies and young children.

Apparently 10,000 US kids are rushed to hospital each year with food lodged in their throat (does no one teach them to chew?). Around 80 die. And it turns out that 17 per cent of all those asphyxiations are caused by common or garden hot dogs. "If you were to take the best engineer in the world and try to design the perfect plug for a child's airway, it would be a hot dog," said the academy.

In the aftermath of this announcement, which made several front pages, the American sausage industry has angrily complained about a creeping nanny state. But I call it good news. For if frankfurter sales are to dive (and remember, the US takes health scares seriously) then there's a small, but glorious, chance that this pork-loving country will finally start producing better bangers.

'Locker' the seniors' choice?

Wondering how The Hurt Locker, which generated just $12m at the box office, can suddenly be odds-on favourite to beat Avatar (which made $2bn) to the Oscar for Best Picture? Even if it did clean up at the Baftas on Sunday. Wonder no more: the Hollywood Reporter recently surveyed the Academy's 5,777 members and discovered that their average age is 57.7. That's older than the electorate for any other Hollywood award, and makes them less likely to plump for a crowd-pleaser. Or so the (ageist) theory goes.