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Should there be choking warning labels on food?
High-risk choking foods, including hot dogs, seeds and nuts, were more likely to require hospitalizations.
July 29th, 2013
12:01 AM ET

Should there be choking warning labels on food?

Choking is a leading cause of injury in children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, especially those four years and younger. Although the number of choking incidents involving toys and toy parts has gone down in the last 20 years due to manufacturer and federal government warnings, the number of food-choking cases in youngsters is still high.

"We have done a great job in this country (of) preventing choking in children on toys, “says Dr. Gary Smith, co-author of a new study on choking injuries and a professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “Since the 1990s we've had laws and regulations, systems where we can monitor these injuries when they happen. We have no such systems in place currently for food."

The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, reviewed thousands of statistics on children who had choking-related emergency room visits between 2001 to 2009. The study authors found that an average of 12,400 children under the age of 15 were treated for non-fatal, food-related choking each year, which equals about 34 children per day.

According to the Pediatrics study, foods that caused the most choking incidents were hard candy, meats and bones. High-risk foods, including hot dogs, seeds and nuts, were more likely to require hospitalizations.

“That's because hot dogs, nuts and seeds are hard to chew," noted Smith. “The hot dog is the perfect size to block the airways, in a young child, so that's why those are much more dangerous foods to give to a child."

More than 60% of the choking episodes happened in children 4 years of age and younger, according to the study. Choking incidents decreased as a child got older. After the age of 7 the number of cases remained relatively unchanged through age 14.

Parents need to keep in mind the age of their children when giving them certain foods, the study authors warned, especially when it comes to newborns. There has always been discussion on when to start a baby on solid foods. Dr. Jennifer Shu, a pediatrician with the Children's Medical Group, in Atlanta, Georgia, says 4 months is a good starting point.

“Before 4 months, foods can be a choking hazard” says Shu. "But if you wait much longer than 7 or 8 months then babies get really used to full liquid diet and may have a harder time adjusting to thicker textures.”

Child experts note parents and caregivers should be aware of food choking prevention recommendations and guidelines. The AAP recommends children younger than 5 years of age should not be given hard candies or gum, and raw veggies and fruits should be cut into little pieces. Young children should be supervised while eating and should eat sitting down.

In order to cut down food on related choking incidents, the study authors recommend placing warning labels on foods that pose a high choking risk for babies and children. They also believe a public awareness campaign should be designed to educate parents about the dangers of food-related choking among little ones.


soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. Ishan

    I agree to the fact that there should be a chocking warning labels on food like the veg and non veg labels. It will help reduce the injuries in children.

    July 29, 2013 at 05:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rick

      All foods are a "choking hazard". There isn't a food you CANT choke on (including Jello). Putting a "choke hazard" label on food won't help anyone. Your frigging stupid if you think otherwise.

      July 30, 2013 at 07:19 | Report abuse |
    • bob

      Thanks Rick, this article is retarded along with the people that need it. Put idiot warnings on people.

      July 30, 2013 at 08:00 | Report abuse |
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      August 1, 2013 at 09:12 | Report abuse |
    • Thinking things through

      Rick is right, anything you can fit into your mouth, you can choke on.

      August 5, 2013 at 18:45 | Report abuse |
  2. Tania

    Latex balloons are also a high risk to kids and should also have warning labels. All kids pop the balloons then eventually place them in their mouth to refill them with air. If kids swallow the balloon you will have to rush them to the ER.

    July 29, 2013 at 08:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Jay Reams

    They should have drowning caution labels on bottled water also then. What about being responsible enough to think for yourselves?

    July 29, 2013 at 09:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Claire

      For those unfortunate children whose parents lack common sense, warning labels may be needed. When my children were small, I tacked the list of foods that were choking hazards from the AAP on the fridge. No one had hot dogs, grapes, baby carrots, etc. until after age 4. I took the choking thing very, very seriously. To this day, I shudder when I see a baby or small child eating grapes.

      July 29, 2013 at 17:02 | Report abuse |
    • rodeo

      Obama Bin Laden and his boys think for us.

      July 30, 2013 at 07:13 | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      @Rodeo, don't you mean Fox News thinks for you?

      July 30, 2013 at 15:49 | Report abuse |
  4. Kate

    Years ago, the 2 year old child of a man I worked with died from choking on a grape. Such a sad situation.

    Rather than put warnings on a whole lot of foods, it would be a lot more simple and effective to just educate the parents. Many parents have no idea of how dangerous an ordinary food like a hot dog or a grape can be to a toddler.

    July 29, 2013 at 09:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Scottq

      Educate? Why? People inherently that choking on food is a possibility. If you're lucky, the food pops out. If not, hopefully someone is nearby to help. Education won't do a damn thing. We already know this stuff.

      July 30, 2013 at 12:18 | Report abuse |
    • MrsFizzy

      Well, Scott – some people are really stupid. And yet, they breed!

      August 7, 2013 at 01:50 | Report abuse |
  5. DP

    CNN, please make sure the doctors you ask about when babies should start solids have some sort of training in nutrition or gastrointestinal health. Any would do.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Mother of two

    In my personal opinion there's too many regulated warnings on many of the items we purchase and/or consume. Be a responsible parent and cut food into small pieces for your children. Read a parenting book – there's a lot of useful information in there regarding hazards for children. Can't read – take a free class offered by your local health department on child care. The resources are out there – new regulations are just giving more people reasons to sue. How about teaching parents to be proper caregivers...

    July 29, 2013 at 11:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Mary

    Actually, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life and not starting solids before then unless medically necessary. You can search the AAP website for this information. Many babies are not developmentally ready for solids before then. Make sure your source knows what he's talking about.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Mom

    I'd say no hard candy for kids under 10. It's way too risky. Even then, they don't need hard candy.
    I would never give a 6-year-old hard candy. And no lollypops either.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Trench Wolfhound

      Absolutely. And they should not be allowed to go to a pool or water park before 12, because they could drown. They should not be allowed to ride a bike before 10, because they could fall and hurt themselves. They shouldn't play board games until 7, because again, choking hazards. In fact, children should be kept in a tightly sealed padded room until they're old enough to take care of themselves.
      Or... Maybe we should just let kids learn from mistakes. Yes, some die. It happens. Daily. If we spend all our time making sure everyone is safe from any possible harm, we'll sacrifice the actual life we're trying to live. There's a reasonable amount of safety. These things are just going over board. That being said, we need to quit blaming society and putting rules on the masses simply because a few parents don't know how to take care of their children.

      Seriously... There should be a test everyone has to pass before they're allowed to conceive.

      July 30, 2013 at 08:21 | Report abuse |
    • MrsFizzy

      Oh god no, no candy for children! And wrap them in bubble wrap and make them wear a helmet whenever they go out. It's just not worth the risk!! And NO running!

      August 7, 2013 at 01:48 | Report abuse |
  9. mina

    You should read this article and the comments.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. sunnygirl

    Jay Reams–you obviously don't have children.

    July 29, 2013 at 14:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Tania

    I educate people on safety for children and many parents don't come to our events because some beleive they know it all. Is important to be open minded because what is common sense to many, can be an eye opener to others.

    July 29, 2013 at 15:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Really?

    Come on- really? Choking labels now? I don't even have kids and I know when watching toddlers to make sure the food I give them is cut up so small there is no choking risk. It's called common sense.

    July 29, 2013 at 15:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Portland tony

    People who haven't the sense to monitor the foods given to youngsters aren't gonna read warning labels........we need warning labels to place over the current warning labels. I can see the warning label printed on a cooked hot dog. WARNING: COOK AT 200 DEGREES, PRODUCT CONTAINS BEEF, PORK , OTHER ANIMAL BYPRODUCTS AND SUSPECT ADDITIVES THAT MAY BE HARMFUL TO SMALL CHILDREN. PRODUCT, IF NOT EATEN CORRECTLY MAY INDUCE CHOKING IN CHILDREN UNDER 5 OR SENIORS OVER 80. REFRIGERATE AFTER USING. :)

    July 29, 2013 at 16:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. bob

    Honestly, if you're stupid enough to give your child something they can choke on, you are too stupid to breed.

    July 29, 2013 at 17:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. S. Faidley

    How much taxpayer money did this study cost us?
    If the parents aren't bright enough to look at an item and realize it could be a choking hazard will they be able to or bother to read the label?
    Chances are the kids won't be much brighter than the parents. Thats natural selection isn't it?

    July 29, 2013 at 22:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Bayousara

    I went to a babysitting job as a teenager and as the parents left, I was searching for a 14-month old (there were three other kids) and found him in the den choking on an orange section one of the other kids gave him. I reached in and pulled it out, but it was scary. I had a bad episode with a Toosie Roll section as a teen. It tends to form a phlegm over your windpipe, and I couldn't breathe. So don't give those to kids under 10 IMO.

    July 30, 2013 at 00:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Deborah Jean

    Having a child with ADHD, my son is at high risk for choking. I had the perform the heimlich on him already after he choked on a gumdrop candy and that was when he was seven-years-old. They do the same thing for toys, why not do it for foods as well. Parents may be smart to know the choking warnings already, but they also know the choking warnings with toys, and yet still many die from choking on them. This is something that should have been done a long time ago.

    July 30, 2013 at 02:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Butters Stotch

      Perhaps you should just let him go.

      Evidently the experience of choking isn't enough of a lesson to chew his food. Twice.

      Or, like everything else, perhaps we should just ban all foods that pose a choking hazard, just so the lowest common denominator doesn't off itself while trying to do a basic human function.

      Please also let him know that he can't breathe water.

      July 30, 2013 at 04:23 | Report abuse |
    • Racinguy

      Maybe all food in the store should come pre-cut up to protect us all? We can have a study on proper bite size done and have it taken care of fr us. Then if someone chokes, we have more people to sue because we have no responsibility ourselves!!

      July 30, 2013 at 05:44 | Report abuse |
    • MrsFizzy

      Natural selection??

      Really – if he can't eat his food properly at that age feed him only mush til he gets it.

      August 7, 2013 at 01:42 | Report abuse |
  18. AJK

    Let's not forget to not spill hot coffee from McDonald's on your lap. I hear it may burn.

    July 30, 2013 at 02:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. AJK

    If you need choking warnings to protect your kids, you don't deserve kids.

    July 30, 2013 at 02:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Orion

    oh please, the warning labels have not helped at all, it has been scientifically proven people do not pay attention to warning labels. It's common sense, and toys have been made bigger so it is harder to choke on

    July 30, 2013 at 04:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Racinguy

    This is the stupidest thing I've ever read. Period.

    July 30, 2013 at 05:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Karl-Erlend Mikalsen

    Silly Wadas-Willingham, two year olds can't read warning labels. :)
    Joking aside, I can't see warning labels on foods having much of an impact here. People who can't fathom that small children can choke on things they put in their mouth probably aren't the people who will respond to warning lables (or be able to read them).
    Also, think of the health risks involved. One thing is creating good eating habits as Dr. Jennifer Shu mentions. Another is the nutritional value of solid foods. Children need iron, kalium, proteines and fibers; you can't feed them on stuff from a blender forever.
    I see more value in informing parents to remain by their small children as they eat and know how to do the heimlich maneuver on small children.

    July 30, 2013 at 07:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Albert911emt

    I've noticed that the staircase in my home has no warning label concerning the risk of falling while using the stairs. I'm gonna sue the builder for this outrageous oversight.

    July 30, 2013 at 07:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Patches

    "Although the number of choking incidents involving toys and toy parts has gone down in the last 20 years due to manufacturer and federal government warnings, the number of food-choking cases in youngsters is still high."

    So, the solution is to label any food that can be swallowed as a choking hazard, then come up with alternative food that can't be swallowed? I don't think you thought your cunning plan all the way through.

    July 30, 2013 at 07:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Linda Lovelace

    I Love big sausages,they are lip smacking Good.

    July 30, 2013 at 08:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. metatron archetype

    Don't label dangerous foods, just outright ban them and criminalize their possession and distribution. No matter how clearly labelled, dangerous food still has the chance to cause harm to a child, and that's simply unacceptable. Children should not be forced to grow up in an environment that contains any sort of threat, danger, or obstacle to their self-actualization.

    If it saves even one life, it's worth it.

    July 30, 2013 at 08:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Wastrel

      Excellent. And raise insurance premiums to cover the possibility that someone might choke on a dangerous food by accident (or because they needed to eat), making sure that all food, except that taken intravenously, is considered dangerous.

      As you no doubt perceive, the appeal-to-emotion claim that something will "SAVE LIVES" is the reason many or our freedoms are being lost and we are beset by regulation on all sides.

      July 30, 2013 at 09:44 | Report abuse |
  27. exc

    Why isn't there a link to email this article? I want to email it to my caregivers. Please make this change CNN. Im not on Facebook to share articles with everyone I know!

    July 30, 2013 at 11:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • singedrac

      The url is at the top of your browser. Highlight it, copy it, and paste it into an email. It's really very easy.

      July 30, 2013 at 13:42 | Report abuse |
  28. JSC

    Idiots

    July 30, 2013 at 12:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. singedrac

    Carrots are the same size as hotdogs but... uh.. you're not feeding your kids carrots now are you?

    July 30, 2013 at 13:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. singedrac

    CNN, you did this same article basically three years ago. http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/02/22/children.choking/index.html

    July 30, 2013 at 14:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. jcdc

    what's next tripping warnings on shoes?

    July 30, 2013 at 15:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Tim

    We don't need labels on food. what we need is a society not being over run by complete asshats with no common sense, responsibility, or accountability.

    Working in restaurants for nearly 10 years now I have had the displeasure of watching just about every disgusting mannerism known to man as well as the stupidest of the stupid when it comes to society, and the unfortunate front seat view of watching three different people choke one of which I applied the heimlich myself. One was a child approximately 3, the other two adults well into their 40's. In the child's case it was a chunk of a corn dog that the parent stupidly just gave them the whole dog on a stick and continued to talk with her friends, the saddest part is that it was one of the friends that noticed the choking child and moved quickly to dislodge it while the mother sat there freaking out. The first adult was at a table I had to serve and they "were in a hurry" scarfing down their food as fast as possible. The woman at the table, apparently forgetting to chew as she inhaled her salad, ended up choking on a crouton. The man I had to give the heimlich was with a large group of people (pathetic that none of them knew how to act fast or even what to do) but every time i passed the table they were guzzling down beer and talking and laughing and shoving whatever they could reach into their mouth. one person accidentally spit half their mouthful on me while refilling their water after someone said something funny. as for the man that choked, NEWS FLASH PEOPLE, Sliders, while they are smaller are NOT bite sized hamburgers. This moron apparently thought so. In short... PARENTS.. BE PARENTS not mindless imbeciles, know what and how small things need to be to feed your kid! Adults, be adults, chew your food, talk only when your mouth is not full, eat slower. stop being disgusting slobs. i hear your life expectancy is higher when you take care of yourself.

    July 30, 2013 at 18:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Chris

    Choking labels on food. Come on, what's next, reminding people to breathe.

    August 5, 2013 at 10:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Thinking things through

    I find it hard to think of a food that would be impossible to choke on (or in the case of liquids or mashed food, go down the wrong lane, to a similar effect). So I guess this means everything you'd might ever ingest would be so labelled?

    August 5, 2013 at 10:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. MrsFizzy

    If parents are so irresponsible to not realise that their toddler is SMALL and can choke, they won't pay any attention to labels. People nowadays are too lazy and just give their kids grownup foods.

    August 7, 2013 at 01:46 | Report abuse | Reply

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