It will be interesting to see if Memorial Day celebrators will head pediatricians’ warnings about foods that pose choking hazards in young children. Obviously, one of the first foods that might come to mind is the hot dog. Many consumers have ridiculed the idea on Internet, arguing that parents should simply cut the food up themselves before serving it to their young children. However, the American Academy of Pediatricians, the nation’s leading pediatricians’ group, is urging the Food and Drug Administration to take action and require warning labels on foods that are known choking hazards.
Additionally, the Academy is also urging food manufacturers to redesign foods that pose a choking hazard. Recently Janet Riley, President of the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, stated: “it’s not going to happen”. However, despite Ms. Riley’s protests, another food designer has already come up with a new product to be marketed on the East Coast. That designer, Eugene D. Gagliardi Jr., who invented Steak-umms and popcorn chicken, created a hot dog that still looks the same as the old variety, but that splits open when cooked, causing it to fall apart into bite-size pieces.
The pediatrician’s group started studying the issue nine years ago after 17 children, including several in the U.S., choked on a gelatinous candy that had to be sucked out of a very small plastic cup to be consumed. That candy was eventually banned, but pediatricians are still concerned about the number of children still at risk of choking on certain foods. In fact, there are no recent figures on the number of children who choke on foods each year—the last figure included 160 children who died of an obstructed respiratory tract in 2001. Furthermore, infants under the age of 4 are under particular risk of choking because they are still developing their ability to chew adequately and prepare for swallowing. The pediatrics group does note that it is important for parents to be vigilant when serving their young children certain foods. Nevertheless, they also argue that parents cannot always prevent choking even when they are standing right next to their child.