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Doctors Call for Choke-Free Hot Dog

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Choking kills more than 100 U.S. children each year. Is it time to redesign this all-American food?

kid eating hot dog

Each year, choking kills more than 100 children in the U.S. -- and sends 15,000more to the ER. The culprits? Candy, gum, coins, balloons and food such as popcorn and hot dogs.

Today, in the journal Pediatrics, The American Academy of Pediatrics is calling for changes in the way food is designed and labeled, in order to minimize children's chances of choking.

The AAP's recommendations to parents are as follows:

• High-risk foods -- including hot dogs, raw carrots, grapes and apples -- should be cut into pea-sized pieces for small children.

• Other risky foods -- including hard candies, popcorn, peanuts and marshmallows -- shouldn't be given to young children at all.

"We've all fed our kids some of the items from the lists above," Dr. Nina Shapiro tells momlogic. "It's not worth the risk.As an airway doctor, I've treated kids who have choked on all of these items. Even older kids (and adults, for that matter) can choke on food. Surgical removal is most always the treatment, but horrific outcomes -- such as permanent brain damage or death -- are not just sensational news stories. They are real, and too common."

Here are the AAP's top goals:

• To make choking prevention a priority for government and food makers

• To put warning labels on high-risk foods

• To urge the Food and Drug Administration to work with other government agencies to establish a nationwide food-related choking reporting system, and to recall foods linked with choking

• To encourage the food industry to avoid shapes and sizes that pose choking risks

Joan Stavros Adler's 4-year-old choked to death on a piece of hot dog in 2001. Ever since her son died, she has been pushing for more warning labels. She says she hopes that the AAP's efforts will work.

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47 comments so far | Post a comment now
Caroline February 22, 2010, 4:22 PM

This is absurd. There are 300 million people in this country. 100 kids a year is next to nothing. It’s so unfortunate when it does happen, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

MICHELLE February 22, 2010, 6:53 PM

“IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN TO ME/MY KID” is not acceptible when it comes to innocent kids who are given unsafe foods/toys/items by adults.I’ve seen the results when a family friends daughter choked on a hot dog at the age of 4. She survived but had many months of recovery from the lack of oxygen to her brain. Warning labels should be on some items but common sense of adults should be the main point. Choking can be avoided with comon sense and supervision.

Gail Cooke February 22, 2010, 7:30 PM

Seriously???? I swear to God our kids are going to grow up too stupid to live. The way society is coddling people…from time immemorial children children have been eating solid food. I feel for the lady who’s kid died, but warning labels on hotdogs are just too over the top. ANYTHING can cause choking..ANYTHING. Unfortunately stuff happens. Regardless of all the supervision, warning labels or any precautions taken. Recall food that causes choking???? You CAN NOT be serious.

k February 22, 2010, 7:31 PM

A family friend’s son passed away at the age of 3 after choking on a grape. It only takes an extra second to cut fruit, hotdogs, and veggies into smaller pieces to ensure they wont lodge themselves in small airways.

Marianne Johnson February 22, 2010, 10:32 PM

Just cut the hotdogs in half longwise and they can still eat them in the bun. Grapes can be cut in half.

philou February 23, 2010, 10:28 AM

How about we just not be so freakin stupid? Do we really need legislation about every aspect of our lives? I’m really fed up with the stupidity of some people—get educated not legislated.

Nina Shapiro, MD February 23, 2010, 12:54 PM

Be careful about being so snide about this. Having resuscitated many children who have choked on food and toys and nearly died, I believe we should do everything we can to prevent this.

Anonymous February 23, 2010, 5:43 PM

kids are weenies

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Joan Craven February 24, 2010, 6:25 AM

Excellent article. We always need these reminders.

Jake Wiston February 24, 2010, 8:54 AM

Are parents nowadays that incompetent up till the point where everything needs to be pointed out in labels or legislated?

Labels on toys and non-food objects are acceptable since they aren’t supposed to go into the mouth in the first place but come on…hot dogs?

In the old days, parents would cut up foods into smaller pieces or mash them up first before giving them to their young. Even my mom used to pick the bones off fish by hand and break the fish meat into small pieces first before feeding them to me.

Or are we going to also require labels on fish as high risk of having the bones stuck in the throat?

Anonymous February 24, 2010, 11:59 AM

YES. Parents these days are that incompetent.

Isa April 21, 2010, 5:01 PM

Jesus Christ. If your kids are too goddamn stupid to eat a hot dog without getting killed, then I’m sorry, there’s nothing anyone can do to help you.

Colleen October 30, 2010, 10:06 AM

Harsh comments here, but it can happen to any child. It’s never happened to mine, but how would you feel if it happened to yours?
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