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Can You Die From Eating Bad Hot Dogs Like on ‘Julie and the Phantoms’?

Netflix’s new teen drama Julie and the Phantoms is a sweet series about a shy girl who finds her voice when she joins a band. The twist? Her bandmates are three handsome teen ghosts. Yes, the boys in the band in this Netflix series died when they ate bad hot dogs back in 1995. Which led me to wonder: can you really die from eating bad hot dogs? Or is this just a quirky invention for the world of Julie and the Phantoms?

Based on the Brazilian series Julie e os Fantasmas, Julie and the Phantoms is High School Musical mastermind Kenny Ortega’s first big series for Netflix. The show follows Julie (Madison Reyes), a withdrawn songbird who has struggled to overcome stage fright in the wake of her musician mother’s death. Her world is rocked when three handsome teen ghosts — Luke (Charlie Gillespie), Alex (Owen Joyner), and Reggie (Jeremy Shada) — pop into her life. All three boys were poised for rock superstardom in the mid-’90s, until they decided to eat hot dogs cooked on a car radiator before their big show. Soon, all three were carted off to the hospital where they died.

So how realistic is this? Can hot dogs really kill you? Here’s our analysis…

CAN BAD HOT DOGS KILL YOU LIKE IN JULIE AND THE PHANTOMS?

So there are a number of things in hot dogs that could definitely threaten to derail your rock ‘n roll career. Chief amongst them? (Especially if you’re eating all-meat hot dogs in the ’90s?)  Listeria. 

Here’s the problem with attributing Luke, Alex, and Reggie’s death to Listeria…it doesn’t usually kill people, shows up differently in different folks, and can take up to 70 days to assert itself.

Eating undercooked hot dogs can also upset your stomach or help you get Listeria poisoning. So maybe what killed our boys was the method the hot dogs were cooked?

Charlie Gillespie in Julie and the Phantoms
Netflix

WILL COOKING HOT DOGS ON A CAR RADIATOR KILL YOU?

Not necessarily! While it’s maybe not encouraged, there are safe ways to cook meals using the heat of your car’s engine. (Note: not radiator.)

According to HowStuffWorks.com, you can wrap your food in tin foil — a must — and drive around to cook your meal. (I’m serious. Car cooking recipes ascribe to a cook time based on mileage.) The heat of the engine should do the trick and it’s thought that older cars do a better job of handling this gig.

It’s worth noting that our heroes got their dogs from the radiator of a parked car. That suggests that the hot dogs might be both undercooked…and possibly contaminated by bacteria… (If the radiator was dirty.)

HOW COULD BAD HOT DOGS KILL THREE TEENS?

This is hearsay, but Decider’s own Alex Zalben says he has heard of a case where a NYC street dog killed someone via his wife’s physician. According to that doctor, a patient ate a hot dog that had been sitting in liquid for too long in a street vendor’s cart. Apparently the bacteria in this liquid can be harmful enough to cause death.

In 1998, the New York Times published an article explaining that thanks to the city’s lax rules for street vendors, it was very easy — around the time of Julie of the Phantoms — for street vendors to sell questionable food. Hot dogs were not part of this study and Julie and the Phantoms is set in LA, but the point stands. If the radiator the dogs were cooked on wasn’t heated up enough or clean enough, it could result in food poisoning.

But killing three different teen boys from the same batch of dogs? IS IT POSSIBLE?

See, here’s where I’m skeptical. I’m not sure all three boys would be immediately felled by such dogs. Indeed, the food poisoning wouldn’t be so…immediate??

So my theory — and keep in mind I have not watched the whole first season of Julie and the Phantoms yet — is that their food was poisoned by some nefarious schemer. Justice for the car-cooked hot dog!

(But seriously, be careful with uncooked meat and how you prepare your food.)

Watch Julie and the Phantoms on Netflix

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