Doctors Urge Warning Labeling for Food That Can Choke Children

Whether or not you have children, most people are familiar with warning labels on children’s toys. These warning labels could include anything from lead content in painted toys, choking hazards from small parts, or potential injuries from sharp objects. Yet while there are ample warnings for children’s toys, there are no warning labels itemizing the dangers to children from eating certain foods.

We typically don’t think of food as being dangerous to children, yet one horrific episode involves a 23 month-old child who died after a piece of popcorn she was eating became lodged in her lung and bronchial tubes. Her parents, like the majority of the general public, had no idea that popcorn was unsafe for their 2 year-old.

In an effort to increase awareness and prevent the recurrence of episodes like the one described, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is advocating for food warning labels. The AAP, based out of Elk Grove Village, Illinois, is one of the nation’s leading pediatric groups. It is lobbying for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require warning labels on foods that are known choking hazards.

According to a 2008 study, the ten foods that pose the highest choking hazards for young children are hot dogs, peanuts, carrots, boned chicken, candy, meat, popcorn, fish with bones, sunflower seeds and apples.

Many of us remember the film Field of Dreams, where Ray Kinsella’s (Kevin Costner) daughter gets a piece of hot dog stuck in her throat. None of us scoffed at the idea of a child choking on a piece of hot dog because we can all related to the idea that children do in fact get regular food products stuck in their throats or lungs, impairing their ability to breathe.

There is some hope for those advocating for food warning labels given that there are currently some food items that do contain warning labels. For example, the Super Ball, a large jawbreaker, is required to include a warning advising its users that it is a risk to young children. So why do items like the Super Ball require warning labels, while others do not?
In order to create a uniform system, pediatricians are urging the FDA to set uniform standards governing which foods require cautionary information if consumed by children under 5 years-old. At the head of such advocacy efforts is Bruce Silverglade, the legal director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. In 2003, his advocacy group unsuccessfully lobbied for a bill requiring the FDA to develop food labeling regulations.

While there is certainly hope for food warning labels detailing potential hazards to children, this safety measure might be a long way off. Therefore, in the meantime, one doctor from the AAP suggests that parents wait until their children are at least 4 to 5 years-old before feeding them some of the the ten riskiest foods for young children. And while this is a potential temporary solution, it does pose a problem for the many parents out there who are unaware of the inherent dangers in everyday food items. This lack of awareness among the general public reinforces the need for warning labels in the first place.
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois product liability lawsuits for over 30 years, serving those areas in and around Cook County, including Glenview, Elk Grove Village, Oak Park, and Bolingbrook.

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