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The New York Times reports that the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that warning labels should be required for foods that are a choking hazard, and that all foods should be monitored and evaluated along these lines.

“At the same time, “ the Times writes, “the academy is urging manufacturers to redesign some of the most dangerous foods — especially the hot dog, a leading choking hazard. That call has been widely ridiculed on the Internet; many commenters said parents should modify the hot dog themselves — by cutting it. And Janet Riley, president of the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, said of a redesign, ‘It’s not going to happen.’

“But the food designer Eugene D. Gagliardi Jr., who invented Steak-umms and popcorn chicken, has come up with a new hot dog that is soon to be marketed on the East Coast. It looks the same in the package, but has eight deep slits that open when cooked, causing it to break apart into small pieces when eaten.”

The Times notes that while there are no recent figures on choking accidents, “in 2001, about 17,500 children 14 and younger were treated in emergency departments for choking, and 60 percent of the episodes were caused by food. In 2000, 160 children died from an obstruction of the respiratory tract.”
KC's View:
There will be those who will say, “Bah! Humbug! A good parent makes sure his or her kids don’t choke.” But I would not agree, mostly because of the following anecdote in the Times piece:

“On a July afternoon in 2006, Patrick Hale microwaved a bag of popcorn for his two young children and sat down with them to watch television. When he got up to change the channel, he heard a strange noise behind him, and turned to see his 23-month-old daughter, Allison, turning purple and unable to breathe.

“As a Marine, he was certified in CPR, but he could not dislodge the popcorn with blows to her back and finger swipes down her throat. He called 911, but it was too late: by the time Allison arrived at the hospital, her heart had stopped beating. An autopsy found that she had inhaled pieces of popcorn into her vocal cords, her bronchial tubes and a lung.”

The Times makes clear that not a day goes by that Hale does not feel guilt about his daughter, and he was better equipped than most to deal with this emergency. My heart goes out to him...and in this case, I vote with my heart.

One other thing. I do not know Janet Riley of the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. But her statement - “It’s not going to happen” - is enough for me to suggest that one should never use the word “never.” No such thing. Not these days.

Companies and people should rather say, “Let’s see what we can do.” Or “Let’s try.” Or, “This is a challenge worth taking.”