Those fiendish, gelatinous sticks of death:
Pediatricians call for a choke-proof hot dog
Nutritionists have long warned of the perils of hot dogs: fat, sodium and preservatives to name a few.
Now, the American Academy of Pediatrics wants foods like hot dogs to come with a warning label — not because of their nutritional risks but because they pose a choking hazard to babies and children.
Better yet, the academy would like to see foods such as hot dogs “redesigned” so their size, shape and texture make them less likely to lodge in a youngster’s throat. 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.”
The Consumer Product Safety Commission requires labels on toys with small parts alerting people not to give them to kids under 3. Yet there are no required warnings on food, though more than half of non-fatal choking episodes involve food, Smith says.
“No parents can watch all of their kids 100% of the time,” Smith says. “The best way to protect kids is to design these risks out of existence.”
Though Smith says he doesn’t know exactly how someone would redesign a hot dog, he’s certain that some savvy inventor will find a way.
Janet Riley, president of the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, supports the academy’s call to better educate parents and caregivers about choking prevention. “Ensuring the safety of the foods we service to children is critically important for us,” Riley says.
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.
Yes, the accidental death of a child is a terrible thing.
(Hell, I drank a bottle of cream-rinse when I was five and swallowed a plastic, magnetic “K” from some alphabet set. I crapped out both.)
But, redesigning hot-dogs?
Out of the billions of hot-dogs eaten each year, by adults and children alike, there have been just under 14 child deaths from choking.
Kids eat. It is not an option. Some, regrettably, will choke on food, be it a hot-dog, or a sliced apple. Some will die.
Parents who are wise enough to engage in simple responsible behavior frequently cut up food for their children. Many probably already do this with hot-dogs, too.
This “suggestion” not only reeks of obsessive nanny-state activism, but it also introduces the possibility of some ambulance-chasing lawyers to persuade relatives of potential victims to sue hot-dog companies in an effort to litigate grief into anger.
Sometimes, tragedy has no one to blame.
Bad things happen. Accidents happen. Even to children.
We should protect them in as sensible a way as possible.
Perhaps instead of a label warning of the possible choking hazards of hot-dogs, the label should discourage stupid parents from buying them.
Reason wastes away with every passing day.