Pediatrician Group Wants Choking Warnings on Some Foods

The American Academy of Pediatrics has said that some foods require warning labels. WHEC said physicians are saying hot dogs, some candies, and even popcorn, present <"">choking dangers to young children and that pediatricians are concerned about children learning how to chew and swallow, generally, children under the age of five.

The pediatricians are urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to mandate warning labels be included on these foods’ packaging, saying that because these foods can choke small children, the foods should have the same warnings and oversight as those seen in small toys that present choking hazards to children, said WHEC.

The New York Times wrote that the American Academy of Pediatrics—which it said is the largest pediatrician group in the United States—is seeking the change and is looking for warning labels, evaluation, and monitoring. The group began looking at the problem nine years ago after 17 children across the globe—some in the United States—died from choking on a “gelatinous” candy, said The New York Times. The FDA ultimately banned the candy, the New York Times added.

The issue is significant. According to MyFoxAtlanta, about 10,000 children in the United States are treated at a hospital—with about 100 dying—each year, due to choking, with the leading cause being food. Sadly, points out MyFoxAtlanta, parents do not generally realize that the food they are feeding their children could be dangerous.

Although nonfood products can bear labels warning of choking hazards, foods do not, said MyFoxAtlanta, which said smaller children have smaller airways, in addition to still being in the process of learning how to chew and swallow. “Choking does not just happen with coins and pen tops and marbles, and things like that. Choking happens with the common foods that we feed our children every day,” said Kimberly Parker, a registered nurse who works in Health and Prevention for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, quoted MyFoxAtlanta. Parker noted that most parents don’t realize they endangering their children.

“Kind of visualize what a child’s throat looks like, it’s small and round and smooth … if you notice a hotdog is also small and round and smooth,” said Parker, reported MyFoxAtlanta. Parker explained that a piece of hotdog can slide down the child’s throat, creating a plug that may wedge in too tightly for the child to cough the food up, said MyFoxAtlanta. Hotdogs, should be sliced lengthwise and then cut into smaller, bite-sized pieces—not round slices—explained Parker, wrote MyFoxAtlanta.

Hard candy also presents dangers. “It goes back to the child’s airway is small and it’s round, this hard candy is also small and round and smooth, so it’s going to fit into the child’s airway and it’s going to create a plug there,” Parker said. Marshmallows and peanut butter present similar dangers. “The thing about peanut butter is it’s very sticky and it conforms to whatever shape its put into,” said Parker, who recommends peanut butter be spread thinly, said MyFoxAtlanta. Parker recommends using a toilet paper roll as a guide and to never leave children alone with food.

According to the New York Times, citing a 2008 study, nine foods, in addition to hot dogs, pose choking dangers to children: “Peanuts, carrots, boned chicken, candy, meat, popcorn, fish with bones, sunflower seeds, and apples.” Dr. Gary Smith, lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ policy statement on food hazards, said some foods—“raw carrots, marshmallows, peanuts, popcorn, hard candies, and gumballs”—should never be given to children under four or five, said the NY Times. Grapes should be cut into quarters and flat lollipops are recommended over ball-shaped “suckers,” said The New York Times.

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