Pediatric group urges warning labels on foods

Posted on May 26, 2010

The American Academy of Pediatrics has told the Food and Drug Adminstration that foods should be monitored as closely as toys are before being distributed to small children.

In 2001, 17,500 children ages 14 and under were treated in emergency rooms across the United States for choking incidents. 60 percent of these cases were caused by food.

The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that warning labels should be put on foods like hot dogs and popcorn, which are often choking hazard culprits. Furthermore, they think that the government should make some dangerous foods completely off limits to young children.

Allison Hale, the 23-month-old daughter of two U.S. Marines, died in 2006 after choking on popcorn while watching television with her father. Her parents did not know that popcorn would be unsafe for a child her age. They filed a wrongful death suit against the popcorn manufacturer which was settled out of court. Her mother has since noticed that some brands, but not all, have small warning labels on the bottom of the box, unnoticeable to most consumers.

Children's safety groups have also urged the redesigning of certain foods, which has been largely ridiculed by most manufacturers and even consumers who believe that parents should be modifying the foods themselves. However, one food designer has developed a hot dog that looks the same in the package, but once cooked has 8 slits that cause it to fall apart into smaller pieces when eaten.

Pediatricians say that children are still developing their ability to chew between the ages of 3 and 4 and most parents do not know when to introduce more high risk foods, like popcorn, to their young children. Vigilance is always important, but parents, like in the case of Allison Hale, cannot always prevent choking.

Labels could make a difference, vividly informing parents of dangerous foods. Some foods already have choking warning labels, but unless standardized, some manufacturers will still opt out. Two-thirds of hot dog brands have warning labels, but safety groups still fear the one-third that do not.

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