Monday, March 1, 2010

Eating may be hazardous to your health

I came across this article put out by the Associated Press discussing the need for more warnings on food labels. Pediatricians are apparently spearheading the movement in response to the alarming number of choking deaths of children.

As a mother of children who were once small, I’m all about fear of choking. I can vividly recall several incidents of having to jam my finger into a tiny mouth and pull out something dangerous that should not have gone in there in the first place and I can also recall those missed heartbeats any time one of my kids got that ‘I can’t swallow this’ look in their eyes.

It’s terrifying to say the least and it’s one of the hundreds of job hazards that come with being a parent. Constant vigilance over what goes in your child’s mouth is…well…constant.

However, I have to ask myself how many warning labels are really necessary before we can deem our children completely safe. When does it end? The article cites hot dogs as a particularly dangerous food and mentions a parent by name who lost her child in this horrible way. Just like hot dogs, grapes, raisins, lollipops, beans, berries, even peanut butter can pose a risk – not only for children but adults as well. Bread, bagels, hard candy, meat of any kind, apples, carrots…anything that doesn’t melt quickly at body temperature has the potential to cause a choking hazard. Do all these foods really need labels stating that?

I have no desire to blame the victim or cast aspersions on a grieving parent, but the line in the first paragraph of article that states his anguished mother never dreamed that the popular kids' food could be so dangerous is a head/desk moment for me. Kids are born knowing how to swallow, but they’re not born knowing how to chew. Any food you put in your kid’s mouth has the potential to be dangerous. If you’ve never dreamed something could choke your child, you’re sleeping a little too soundly to be a parent.

It occurs to me also that putting these warnings on foods, though they’re meant to spare parents the agony of losing a child, may in fact cause more problems than they solve. If, after reading the warning label on a package of hot dogs, a parent gives their child a hot dog anyway and the child does choke, is that parent now guilty of child abuse or even worse, negligent homicide? After all, a family services agent could certainly ask – ‘If you knew this food posed a choking hazard, why did you give it to your child?’ Imagine the horror of having your child choke to death being compounded by guilt that you didn’t heed a warning label.

Instead of putting warnings on every single food product on the market, since they all could potentially cause a choking hazard if you have to put them in your mouth, maybe children should now come stamped with a universal warning: Small objects, if inserted into an orifice, can cause damage. This includes ALL foods. Proceed with caution.


  1. I think you hit the nail on the head with this:

    "Constant vigilance over what goes in your child’s mouth is…well…constant."

    It's scary enough when a child chokes at the dinner table, but I'd be interested in findin out WHERE children choke on food the most often. In front of the tv? In the car? At the movies?

  2. Interesting point. I wonder, if it turns out most choking does occur at the table, will tables need to come with warning labels too?