Hot Dogs, Marshmallows, Candy Choking Kids
Pediatricians Urge Warning Labels on Foods Risky to Kids
WebMD News Archive
Lessons From ‘Gel Candy’
Smith, who co-authored the AAP policy statement, says the FDA needs to take
a more active role in protecting children from manufactured foods that pose a
He directs the Center for Injury, Research and Policy at the Nationwide
Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
He cites a 2002 case where the FDA seized candy from a California
manufacturer after several choking deaths were linked to the product in one
The candies were thick fruit-flavored gels sucked from little cups about the
size of a single-serve coffee creamer. The gels contained an ingredient called
konjac, which does not dissolve easily in the mouth.
Smith says the FDA became aware of the candy only after a local paper broke
the story of the deaths and a U.S. congressman introduced legislation to
require warnings on the candies.
“The problem is there really isn’t a mechanism for the FDA to respond to
this kind of problem,” he says. “It was a big deal for them to step in.”
The AAP policy statement recommends giving FDA the authority to:
- Recall foods that pose “a significant and unacceptable choking hazard to
- Establish a nationwide surveillance and reporting system for food choking
- Evaluate foods and require manufacturers to put warning labels on those
that pose a high choking risk to children
- Educate the public about the risk of food-related choking death among
children, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, AAP and
Parents Need to Recognize Risk
Parents of young children need to recognize that choking is something that
can happen to their child, and take steps to minimize the risk, Smith says.
That means cutting hot dogs lengthwise and in quarters, cutting grapes in
quarters, and grating carrots instead of serving them to their children in coin
shapes or sticks, he says.
And it is especially important to keep an eye on children when they are
eating. Walking, running, talking, laughing and eating quickly all increase
Pediatric emergency medicine specialist Richard Lichenstein, MD, tells WebMD
that foods such as peanuts and sunflower seeds can also get lodged in the
lungs, causing chronic bronchial infections.
Lichenstein is an associate professor in the Department of Pediatric and
Emergency Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in
“This is not uncommon, but it is often missed,” he says. “And while it is
not immediately life threatening, it can cause real problems.”