Julie Whittington, RD

Healthy tips from a Registered Dietitian

Avoid foods that may pose choking hazards to children

Do you think you know what foods present a high choking risk to your children?  Some consumers may not be aware that common foods – even ones they may often give young children – present a relatively high choking risk.

Last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a new policy on choking prevention.  It is published in the March issue of Pediatrics. According to the AAP, choking is a leading cause of injury and illness among children, especially those younger than 3 years old.  And, since food is one of the primary ways children can choke, the AAP wants to see specific standards in place in order to prevent choking.  The AAP officially now recommends:

  • Warning labels on foods that pose a high choking risk.
  • A recall of food products that pose a significant choking hazard.
  • The establishment of a nationwide food-related choking-incident surveillance and reporting system.
  • Food manufacturers should design new food and redesign existing food to minimize choking risk.
  • CPR and choking first aid should be taught to parents, teachers and child care providers.

The AAP also states, “Pediatricians should continue to provide guidance to parents on safe and appropriate food and toy choices, as recommended by the AAP.”

The highest choking danger exists through infancy and until a child reaches approximately 5 years old.  In order to be more careful at home, you should know which foods present a high choking risk, so you can judge whether they are appropriate for your child to consume.  Some foods can more safely be cut into smaller pieces in order to prevent choking.  Pea-sized pieces are best for toddlers.  Here is a list of risky foods:

  • Whole hot dogs and sausages
  • Whole Grapes
  • Gum
  • Marshmallows
  • Peanut butter (including peanut butter on soft bread)
  • Dry crumbly foods (i.e. cornbread, rice with no sauce/butter)
  • Dry meats served without sauce
  • Whole raw vegetables served in large bite-sized pieces including cherry and grape tomatoes
  • Whole hard fruits (i.e. apples, pears, bananas)
  • Dried fruits like raisins and dried cranberries
  • Whole nuts
  • Many hard candies including mints, lollipops and cough drops
  • Popcorn
  • Melon balls
  • String cheese

In general, practice safe eating practices in order to prevent choking, too.  For instance, never let children run while eating.  Sitting at a table is the safest.  Also, avoid eating in the car, where it is difficult to supervise children while they are eating.  Finally, always aim to supervise kids while they are eating.

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