Tragic Day Care Toddler Death Highlights Childrens Food-Related Choking Hazards

In 2000, 160 children age 14 and younger died from obstruction – 41 percent caused by food items and 59 percent by nonfood items. In part due to concerns about children choking, New York State regulation (18 NYCRR 418-1.5) requires handbags, backpacks or briefcases belonging to adults; plastic bags; and toys and objects small enough for children to swallow must be used and stored in such a manner that they are not accessible to children, especially in day care centers.

Unfortunately, an apparent violation of this regulation by an unlicensed day care center for toddlers turned tragic on March 17, 2009, when 2-year-old Olivia Raspanti choked to death at the Carousel Day Care School in Hicksville, New York on a carrot stick that she apparently took from her teacher’s tote bag. Police suspect Olivia may have been given one of the teacher’s carrots earlier in the school day and was seeking another.

According to autopsy results, Olivia died of asphyxia caused by choking on food. The State Office of Children & Family Services issued the school a cease-and-desist order closing the school after an investigation, spurred by the death on Tuesday, revealed that the school operated an unlicensed day care program for toddlers.

The Office of Children & Family Services found that the school was caring for nine children under the age of 3 for more than three hours a day. Any day care center that has two or more children for three or more hours a day must be licensed.

State investigators have determined that Carousel was operating an illegal toddler program with at least nine children under the age of 3. They said yesterday that they were expanding their probe into the school’s other programs. The Nassau district attorney’s office has opened a criminal investigation into the Carousel Day Care School.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping raw vegetables, among other foods, away from children younger than 4 because they are choking hazards. Children under age 4 should not eat any food that is more than 1/2-inch in diameter, especially if it is circular in shape.

The biggest choking hazards are raw vegetables, popcorn, grapes, hard candy, hot dogs, peanut butter and raisins. There was a great deal of attention paid to risks of choking and of lead ingestion presented by small parts of childrens toys when record-setting recalls of childrens toys were made.

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