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Docs Want Warning Labels on Foods Likely to Choke Kids

Anyone who has bought a toy in the past 10 years knows we have regulations that require warning labels on toys that present a choking hazard to young children. But what about the one thing they put in their mouths the most? On Tuesday, CNN reported the American Academy of Pediatrics estimates at least one child in the United States dies every five days from choking on food. The Academy rates choking as the leading cause of death among children 14 and younger. This largest group of pediatricians in the U.S. is calling for regulations requiring warning labels for foods that present the biggest choking hazard to children.

Dr. Gary Smith, a pediatrician and immediate past chairman of the Committee on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention of the American Academy of Pediatrics, tells CNN that there is an extensive system of regulation, labels and recalls in place for toys that pose a choking hazard. He feels that food should have similar requirements.

Dr. Smith says there are certain types of food that present the highest risk of choking. "For example, foods that are round or cylindrical in shape and are roughly the diameter of the back of a child's throat -- these types of foods can completely block the child's airway," he says. Foods that present the biggest hazards are: hot dogs, grapes, raw carrots, apples and peanuts. Children 4 and under only have front teeth, so are at an even higher risk for choking since they have no back molars with which to grind their food.

While the Academy urges action in labeling foods, here are some immediate steps they recommend to help parents lessen the risk of choking:

  • Cut hot dogs lengthwise and grapes in quarters. This changes the dangerous shape of the food, which can block throats of young children and even teenagers.
  • Avoid giving toddlers other high-risk foods such as hard candy, nuts, seeds and raw carrots.
  • Never let small children run, play or lie down while eating.

The Academy of Pediatrics' new policy statement on foods that pose a high-choking danger for children 14 and under is scheduled for publication in the journal Pediatrics in March.

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