Pediatricians Want Choking Warnings on Food

For some time now, hot dogs have been singled out as a particularly dangerous toddler food due their unique shape and ability to the plug the airways of small children.  Back in March, the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) called for a redesign of the standard cylindrical wiener to make it choke proof.  Answering that call was RKS Design, who came up with the brilliant “Slinky-esque Spiral,” a coiled hot dog that, while still bun-friendly, is much more child-safe.

But hots dogs aren’t the only foods that threaten our children’s lives.  Raw carrots, peanuts and popcorn all possess dimensions and density properties that allow them to become lodged in a child’s throat.  Rather than try to redesign what nature gave us, the AAP says that the Food and Drug Administration should treat such hazardous foods the same as dangerous toys and require prominent warning labels on their packaging.

Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio believes this is an idea whose time has come.

“You have a SuperBall that by government regulation has to carry warnings telling people it’s a risk to young children and you can’t market it to them, yet you can have the same identical shape and size gumball and there are no restrictions or requirements.”

While there are no recent statistics on food choking, the numbers from 2001 are sobering.  That year, about 17,500 kids under the age of fifteen were treated in emergency rooms for choking, with 60% of the incidents caused by food.

But while some scoff at the idea of food warning labels and calls for hot dog redesigns, there are those who think that doesn’t go far enough. Bruce Silvergade, legal director of the Center for  Science in the Public Interest, wants the Food and Drug Administration to make certain foods entirely off-limits for young children.  “The F.D.A. needs to set a uniform standard for cautionary information on food that should not be consumed by children under 5,” he says.

While there seems to be some opposition in the food industry to these changes, I think it’s a good idea. Parents who wouldn’t consider purchasing a toy for their young child without first checking the age warning label on the box, don’t realize that some foods are just as dangerous.  If a standard labeling system simliar to that of toys were to be applied to food packaging, perhaps many needless deaths could be avoided.  As someone who still cuts up grapes for my 9-year-old, I say better safe than sorry. What about you?

Image: cutoutwitch/Flickr

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