Redesign hot dogs to be chokeproof?

The American Academy of Pediatrics is waging war against the hot dog – not because of its terrible nutrition value, but because of its potential to choke small kids.

The Academy would like to see a choking hazard label placed on hot dog packaging. Or even better, it would like to see foods like hot dogs redesigned so their size, shape and texture would be less likely to catch in a child’s throat.

According to an article in USA Today:

“More than 10,000 children under 14 go to the emergency room each year after choking on food, and up to 77 die, says the new policy statement, published online today in Pediatrics. About 17% of food-related asphyxiations are caused by hot dogs.”

” ‘If you were to take the best engineers in the world and try to design the perfect plug for a child’s airway, it would be a hot dog,’ says statement author Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. ‘I’m a pediatric emergency doctor, and to try to get them out once they’re wedged in, it’s almost impossible.’ “

Smith points out The Consumer Product Safety Commission requires labels on toys that are potential choking hazards but there’s no equivalent for food.

Janet Riley, president of the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, says she supports more education for parents but:

“… Riley questions whether warning labels are needed. She notes that more than half of hot dogs sold in stores already have choking-prevention tips on their packages, advising parents to cut them into small pieces. ‘As a mother who has fed toddlers cylindrical foods like grapes, bananas, hot dogs and carrots, I ‘redesigned’ them in my kitchen by cutting them with a paring knife until my children were old enough to manage on their own,’ Riley says.”

Here is a gallery of top choking hazards for kids.

So what do you think: Should there be choking warning labels on hot dogs or other similar foods like grapes or carrots? Should the hot dogs be redesigned? (What would you do with it?)

Should it just be up to the parents to take the time to prepare the food in such a way to make it less dangerous to their kids? (Or up to the parents to just not buy it?)

Have you ever had a child choke on a hot dog? Did you/do you cut them up? Up until what age?

104 comments Add your comment

5!!!

February 22nd, 2010
9:05 am

There was an article about 5 years ago in this paper about a boy (around 4 or 5 I think) that died at the movie theatre after choking on popcorn. I don’t remember all of the details, but I do remember that the mother took the child out to the lobby and tried to dislodge the popcorn and that several others tried to help but the child choked and died right there in the lobby.

At the time, my son was just a toddler and I had already given him popcorn. After that, I did not give him any more popcorn for years.

I guess that parents just need to be further educated about it.

JJ

February 22nd, 2010
9:31 am

This is crazy. Cut the damn things up before you give them to your kid. Common sense……

A

February 22nd, 2010
9:36 am

Yes, cut them up, or maybe even better don’t give hot dogs to kids under the age of 3 period. I’ve been buying the organic hot dogs made without nitrates, antibiotics, etc. but most hot dogs out there are basically junk in tube form. Your kids are probably better off with other food choices until they are a bit older. Better to be safe than take a chance!

Jeff

February 22nd, 2010
9:38 am

“The Academy would like to see a choking hazard label placed on hot dog packaging. Or even better, it would like to see foods like hot dogs redesigned so their size, shape and texture would be less likely to catch in a child’s throat.”

You cannot be serious! Sorry, Theresa, but you know as well as I do that a label doesn’t change anything. If you redesign a hotdog, then it isn’t a hotdog anymore. Did Cynthia Tucker sneak in and write your blog for you this morning?

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

February 22nd, 2010
9:40 am

Jeff – I’m not promoting anything — just posing questions.

Jane

February 22nd, 2010
9:46 am

Warning labels?

How about teaching your child how to take a bite of food properly?

RJ

February 22nd, 2010
9:46 am

Placing a label on a hotdog package could be helpful, however once that’s done will parent actually heed the warning?

Dave

February 22nd, 2010
9:47 am

Jeff- no, Cynthia Tucker didn’t write her blog today: there are certain identifiable elements missing that would be there (I think you know what they are) about who’s fault this stuff is.

Nicole

February 22nd, 2010
9:48 am

Parents….pay attention to your kids…don’t expect the government or other companies to pay attention.

cld

February 22nd, 2010
9:51 am

I agree that labels don’t change behavior. (How many people have stopped smoking because of labels on cigarette boxes? Maybe they’ve stopped because of larger-scale efforts to educate, but probably not because the package says it’s bad.)

I also don’t think hot dogs can or should be redesigned. I mean, would they start making them in shapes, like chicken nuggets? Seems a little silly . . .

I do let my toddler have the occasional hot dog. But I slice it and then quarter the slices. At what age is it safe to stop doing that? My aunt once told me a story about a kindergartener (she works at an elementary school) who choked on a hot dog and died. I wouldn’t have thought it’s still a choking hazard for 5-6 year olds. But I guess when you’ve got one adult to 20 (or more – do the elem teachers monitor their classes at lunch these days?) children to an adult, maybe there just isn’t enough oversight to feed borderline unsafe foods? (And I’m talking choking safety, not nutritional safety.)

momtoAlex&Max

February 22nd, 2010
9:55 am

Good grief!!! What’s so hard about cutting the damn hot dog yourself??? I did that for years, along with bananas, grapes, and everything else I fed my kids.

I think there are some people out there that need a warning label themselves for being too dumb to reproduce.

Jeff

February 22nd, 2010
9:58 am

OK, ok, ok. sorry for the Cynthia Tucker comment. LOL. I over-exagerated a tinsy winsy bit.

HB

February 22nd, 2010
10:00 am

It surprises me that choking worries people more than the kids actually ingesting the hot dog. Those things are scary. Cld, I knew a daycare owner who stopped serving hot dogs after an older child (6, I think) choked on one and she had to Heimlich them. She had never served them to toddlers and thought older kids were ok, but then realized as you pointed out, we don’t watch older kids as closely, plus they tend to be less focused on eating than tiny kids as they’re laughing and joking around with their friends.

Parents could teach kids to eat them like one little boy I knew did — across the top like corn on the cob. :)

Sarah H

February 22nd, 2010
10:05 am

Good grief! Cut it up!

Jesse's Girl

February 22nd, 2010
10:08 am

Um…how bout NOT giving your kid a hot dog? Or puree it if you’re that concerned and let them drink the juice….OR..and I know this is radical…just cut it up? Been traveling and lurking lately….visit more later!

YUKI

February 22nd, 2010
10:09 am

I knew well before my kid had teeth that hot dogs were a known choking hazard…I read it a bunch in articles, books, etc…I just make sure to cut them up into pretty small pieces. It’s not really that difficult. I guess a warning label wouldn’t hurt but if that is the only way some people will realize they need to make sure certain food is cut up for a toddler/young child they probably need more help than that…..

DB

February 22nd, 2010
10:12 am

Why pick on hot dogs? What about the 70% of choking deaths that are as a result of toys? Should we ban toys? What about the most prevalent food deaths: gum and candy? Do Skittles get a warning label, too? And, along with hot dogs, including nuts, vegetables and fruit pieces? Should we genetically redesign nuts?

Children’s molars are not developed, and as a result, they do not chew as well as adults. Until the age of 4 or even 5, parents should be serving food in small pieces.

This is not a hot dog problem. This is a parenting problem.

Lori

February 22nd, 2010
10:12 am

If you are too dumb to cut up for toddlers food, then you shouldn’t have kids. Making manufacuters put so many labels on things is idiotic. People aren’t going to read them anyway, and the abulance chasers will still be out for blood. People just need to actually be parents and protect their kids.

5!!!

February 22nd, 2010
10:14 am

Surprised at all the insensitive comments here. As if none of your children have ever eaten anything that is hazardous.

I mean, I am 33 years old and jjust last year I almost choked on a piece of radish in a salad.

I had to heimlich a 65 year old client in the middle of a restaurant. He choked on a piece of steak.

Anyway, I thought I was a well informed parent, but until I read that article I gave my toddler popcorn. I just never had thought about it.

5!!!

February 22nd, 2010
10:15 am

Oh, my son also swallowed a penny when he was 3. Scared me pretty bad, but ended up with a great XRay pic. You can actually see Abraham Lincoln’s face in there.

Michelle

February 22nd, 2010
10:16 am

Honestly, I don’t think a label would make a difference. Some parents just don’t know! They were given hot dogs as kids, etc. There needs to be education from the pediatrician (assuming they go) and the nurses! I used to cut mine up until he had all of his teeth! Once he got all of his teeth, I quit cutting them up (grapes too). Now he is old enough to know how big of a bite to take!

Jesse's Girl

February 22nd, 2010
10:28 am

My oldest would stick pieces of apple in her nose…she was 2 at the time…but still. You don’t see me advocating cutting up fruit for toddlers….she was being silly…ok, maybe stupid:)

Lisa

February 22nd, 2010
10:37 am

5!!! – so then, you’re in favor of what – dicing or pureeing all of your child’s food until s/he’s a teenager?

whatsthedealwith....

February 22nd, 2010
10:39 am

Is it just me or does it seem like parents today are relying on everyone else but themselves to raise their kids? Schools, television after school, babysitters, coaches, labels, more labels, etc… At some point it has to stop and you have to take responsibility for your own child! Stop hovering over your kids school, turn off Hanah Montanna, leave their soccer coach alone and either cut up the stupid hot dog or teach your kid how to chew! if you still find yourself needing labels, stop giving birth!!!

DB

February 22nd, 2010
10:46 am

@Jesse’s Girl: I remember being 4 years old and playing with a tiny game piece from a Parcheesi game. Don’t ask me why, but one night, after I had gone to bed with it clutched in my hand, for some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to stick it up my nose. Whoops — lost it! After about 15 minutes of fruitless attempts at extraction (which only resulted in it being pushed up further), I crept out of bed and told my mom what happened. My dad was out of town, and after spending about a half hour basically trying to blow my nose until my brains came out, Mom was scared, gave up and we went to the emergency room. THAT was scary — a big city ER, no kids hospitals, so there were gunshot wounds, people moaning and screaming — eek! I was terrified! We waited for an hour, and a nice doctor peered up my nose, picked up a VERY long pair of forceps, and two seconds later, extracted the game piece. We got home about 11:30 pm — my mother was exhausted and wrung out.

CDD

February 22nd, 2010
10:46 am

Kids will be kids & parents just need to do *their* job and be as vigilant as possible about protecting them from themselves – or at least their seeming ability to get into all sorts of trouble. That goes for food that might get stuck in their throats as well as other things, like fences around pools, or teaching them not to talk to strangers. It’s all part of parenting and it should be tailored to how old (mature) the child is as to what they should be allowed to do on their own. Unfortunately the flip-side is that it’s impossible to keep all dangerous things away from children and accidents do happen. I can’t tell you how many times my kids have gotten bruises or scrapes just from playing outside, or the time when my baby fell down some steps because the baby gate wasn’t properly latched. (She’s 100% fine BTW.) No government is going to do that by slapping a label on something as “dangerous” or whatever. Just cut the food up or don’t serve it.

Janice

February 22nd, 2010
10:48 am

Oooooo, FCM’s gonna be mad. This blog wasn’t posted until 8:58.

Rod

February 22nd, 2010
10:50 am

My son is 35 months old (almost 3). Yesterday we were at a friend’s house for a cookout. Gave my son a hotdog (in a bun). I cut it in half and gave it to him. He did what he was supposed to do – take a bite, chew, swallow, repeat.

We were there with him. Is this really that big a deal? I assume most of the chokers are younger than that?

FCM

February 22nd, 2010
10:52 am

Janice I am not the one who gives a rat’s tail when the blog posts. If your going to throw stones aim correctly.

There is a Surgeon General warning on every pack of cigarettes sold. There is also a warning lable on a bottle of beer. Does that stop the person from consuming either?

FCM

February 22nd, 2010
10:59 am

“About 3000 adults die each year from choking on food” (Googled it). Obviously we all need pureed food (LOL — JG I luv your comments girl).

Jeff in Roswell

February 22nd, 2010
11:00 am

Enter your comments here

Tiger needs me on his PR team

February 22nd, 2010
11:01 am

Stats from the CDC in case anyone is interested…if we’re going to make the suggestion that hot dogs be redesigned, perhaps we should consider getting the US Treasury to redesign coins too.

Quick Facts
•In 2000, 160 children ages 14 years or younger died from an obstruction of the respiratory tract due to inhaled or ingested foreign bodies. Of these, 41% were caused by food items and 59% by nonfood objects (CDC, unpublished data).

•For every choking-related death, there are more than 100 visits to U.S. emergency departments. In 2001, an estimated 17,537 children 14 years or younger were treated in U.S. emergency departments for choking episodes.

◦Sixty percent of nonfatal choking episodes treated in emergency departments were associated with food items; 31% were associated with nonfood objects including coins; and in 9% of the episodes the substance was unknown or unrecorded.
◦Candy was associated with 19% of all choking-related emergency department visits by children ages 14 years or younger; 65% were related to hard candy; and 12.5% were related to other specified types of candy (chocolate candy, gummy bears, gum, etc.). The type of candy was not specified in the remaining 22.5% of the cases. Candy was associated with 5% of all choking-related visits for infants less than one year of age; 25% of visits for children ages 1 to 4 years; and 28% of visits for children ages 5 to 14 years.
◦Coins were involved in 18% of all choking-related emergency department visits for children ages 1 to 4 years.

◦In 2001, 10.5% of children treated in the emergency department for choking episodes were admitted to the hospital or transferred to a facility with a higher level of care.

Van Jones

February 22nd, 2010
11:01 am

Until each of our kids reached the appropriate age to eat an intact hotdog, we redesigned hotdogs just before we served them… with a knife.

Jeff in Roswell

February 22nd, 2010
11:04 am

I think putting a label on the package makes good business sense in today’s society. Look at the McDonalds coffee lawsuit. With that being said, it’s absolutely up to the parents to do what they need to do to limit choking hazards.
Now, from another business stand point, Oscar Meyer would make a killing on a redesigned hotdog that lessened the chance of choking. Freaked out scared parents would flock to those things. You could charge double and they would buy them.

Jeff in Roswell

February 22nd, 2010
11:07 am

Hmmm, the old gears are turning…

How about extrude the goo into a case the size of a number 2 pencil? You could braid 6 or seven of them into the size of a normal hotdog – kids would love them! I’m on to something now!

FCM

February 22nd, 2010
11:08 am

JG my brother shoved a Barbie doll outfit belt buckle up his nose. He was 4. My mom banned all Barbie doll accessories (shoes, buckles etc but not brushes) from the house until he was 7. She told me why. Fast forward to my darling daughters…when they started getting barbies I took all the accessories out too–and told them why…this year (8 & 10) they were told that could keep them but if I found them in noses etc they were in the trash. So far so good, but last night the 8 yo put a Trivia pursuit triangle in her mouth–she was told to remove it and if it happened again the game was getting locked up.

She stopped

Becky

February 22nd, 2010
11:11 am

Kids can choke on milk also, should we stop that for them?

Jeff in Roswell

February 22nd, 2010
11:15 am

My son is in kindergarten and they serve hot dogs at school. I’m positive that they don’t cut them up for the kiddies. With the exception of a few back yard bbq’s during the summer, school is the only place he eats them. I love hotdogs… but they are so filled with crap that we don’t buy them much at all.

JATL

February 22nd, 2010
11:28 am

Good lord! Cut up things you’re worried about or don’t feed them to your kid! My 16 month old ate a box of popcorn almost as big as he is at the circus yesterday. I thought, hmmm -I know this is a choking hazard, but he’s only eating one piece at a time, and he’s chewing it -so I let him enjoy it. I cannot BELIEVE the pediatric association is wasting time on this. Why don’t we all puree everything and never let the kids go outdoors where we can REALLY hurt ourselves (oh, wait, then they get fat -but maybe they won’t on all that pureed food….)

TnT's Mom

February 22nd, 2010
11:32 am

Why can’t the Academy of Pediatrics aim their efforts at parents? We parents are the ones responsible for what our kids eat, not the government or even the manufacturers. They have valid points that the hot dog can be a hazard if not cut up properly. So use the time and money to teach parents how to cut up and serve foods. The pediatricians give us all sorts of other advice why not this advice?

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

February 22nd, 2010
11:40 am

but jeff what would happen tot he buns =— now the bun manufacturer’s have to get involved!!!!

new mom

February 22nd, 2010
11:50 am

Agreed with most–parents need to be educated and it’s their responsibility for their child’s safety.

When our oldest daughter was between a 8 mths to a year or maybe older (can’t really remember exactly!) I had to do the back thrusts on three different occasions with her. Her food was tiny (shredded cheese, halves of cheerios!) but she’d still get choked. She’d chew and all, then it would get backed up in her throat. Had we not taken a baby safety and first aid class before she was born, I would not have automatically known what to do and been able to save her life. (and please, I don’t want to hear how I could have explained to her at that age to swallow her food all the way!) Also, it’s important to watch them while they eat. They don’t exactly say ‘I’m choking…please help’.

I think the emphasis should be on encouraging parents to take safety and first aid classes. You never know when it will save your child’s life.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

February 22nd, 2010
11:53 am

We had a choking incident on pork when Rose was probably 3 — had to call out the ambulance — we had gotten it out of her throat by the time they arrived but it was very scary —- they paramedics were fantastic with her —

Walsh shoved a pomegranite (sp) seed up his nose and we had to take him to the hospital for that — they can suck things from their noses down into their lungs and aspirate on it — who would have thought he would stick the seed up his nose — that was less scary than the choking -

Jeff in Roswell

February 22nd, 2010
11:53 am

I forgot about the buns! Pepperidge Farms has the small “Slider” buns for hamburgers, maybe they can do something with the hot dog buns. Hmmm, more brainstorming is needed!

Jeff in Roswell

February 22nd, 2010
11:59 am

My son choked on an a segment of orange last week. It had the pulpy white stuff on it and he did not want to chew the pulp, so instead of spitting it out he decided to swallow it. It got caught in his throat. It is scary to see your kids choking.

5!!!

February 22nd, 2010
12:17 pm

“5!!! – so then, you’re in favor of what – dicing or pureeing all of your child’s food until s/he’s a teenager?”

Its not that I am advocating anything, I just think its insensitive to judge people whose children choked on a hotdog (some to death) as bad parents or stupid. I mean, I wouldn’t have known and I am not dumb.

These kids don’t come with instruction manuals. Its not all common sense either. I am sure that every parent has learned some little lesson the hard way. Maybe it was a small lesson like boys tend to pee on you when you remove their diaper. Until I was pee’d on (lesson learned the hard way) I was unaware of that fact. Maybe I missed that class somewhere along the way.

Unfortunately, some people have learned in the hardest ways that hotdogs are choking hazards. I wouldn’t have known. My son doesn’t eat any meat (his choice, not mine, I eat meat) but if he had wanted a hotdog, I don’t know if I would have thought to cut it up at say age 3.

Valstake

February 22nd, 2010
12:25 pm

I understand the issue here, kids choking on hot dogs, but what about adults who happen to like bratwurst, weisswurst, etc? They are not “hot dogs,” but they’re the same shape. So because some kids might choke, adults have to change their food likes or submit to a redesigned wurst? I’ll bet street vendors, ballpark vendors, etc. will really like any changes that come down the pike. There are many unsafe situations in life… you can’t always prevent accidents, but vigilance will keep you safer. Just cut the hotdog up into pieces… or give them pork and beans. Oh, better not do that, they might choke on the beans!

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

February 22nd, 2010
12:42 pm

A shot of what is going on at my house —- starting to pack up 166 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies for delivery!!!! I’m so hungry and want to eat the cookies!!!

http://blogs.ajc.com/momania/2010/02/22/stop-tempting-me-girl-scout-cookies/

Dirtman

February 22nd, 2010
1:38 pm

Has anyone ever heard of parental responsibility? Watch your damn kids, and don’t expect the world to do it for you. You had the fun spreading legs and making the kid, now have the responsibility to take care of it. Don’t stick it in front of the tv and walk away. My God, I’m sick of an ignorant society that believes every business and everyone else must take care of the kid because the parents are too damn lazy to do what they are responsible for.

LibraryJim

February 22nd, 2010
1:53 pm

This reminds me of the scene in “Tough Guys” (1986), where Burt Lancaster’s character, Harry Doyle is released from prison but because of his age is sent to live in a retirement home run by Jake (of “Body by Jake” fame). Well, he goes to complain about the quality of the food — everything is pureed! He wants a steak! But Jake is firm: everyone has false teeth and can’t handle steak. Whereupon Doyle snaps his pearly whites at him and says, I could cut bricks with these babies, I want a steak!

He never did get one and had to ‘escape’ from the home before he finally got one.

Some people want the government to run our lives like Jake ran that retirement home — do everything for us, including cutting our food into safe, bite-sized pieces that don’t require any effort.

Not me. Give me a T-Bone Steak, medium rare. NOW.