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Should Foods Come with Choking Warnings?

Warning labels for choking hazards are required on certain toys — especially those with small parts and balls. Here in the United States, it’s a federal law! But there isn’t a similar law on the books for foods that may be choking hazards.

The American Academy of Pediatrics — the largest group of pediatricians in the United States — would like to see a similar federal law for foods that may be choking hazards… or see more foodmakers willingly add choking hazard warnings to their labels. Another alternative would be redesigning foods to make them less of a choking hazard — for example, making lollipops wide and flat like a coin instead of small and round like a ball.

Members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association are willing to work with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make sure that foods are as safe as possible. So that may mean a combination of food redesign and warning labeling is in our future. And the FDA is already working with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to investigate food choking hazards on a case-by-case basis.

But the American Academy of Pediatricians and other groups would like to see more done to prevent food choking hazards. Previous efforts to pass a federal law requiring choking hazard warnings on certain foods have failed.

Here are a few things on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ wishlist: better reporting on food choking incidents on a national level, recalls on foods known to be choking hazards, and encouraging foodmakers to avoid food shapes and sizes that can be choking hazards. Parents are strongly encouraged to learn CPR and first aid for choking.

While food is a leading cause of choking emergencies in the United States, it is not the only culprit. Non-food items like toy parts, game pieces, balloons, and coins are also frequent choking hazards. Parents can help prevent choking a few different ways.

  • Supervise children when eating.
  • Cut foods into pea-sized pieces to reduce the risk of choking. Larger bites can be a choking hazard.
  • Choose foods and toys that are safely sized and shaped to help prevent choking.
  • Avoid risky foods — like hard candies — for young children.