When considering the risk of young children choking, thoughts tend to center more upon toys than upon food. But that can cause the risk of choking on food to be overlooked. Statistics currently on the website of the Centers for Disease Control state that in 2000, 160 children ages 14 years or younger died from an obstruction of the respiratory tract due to inhaled or ingested foreign bodies. Of these, 41% were caused by food items and 59% by nonfood objects.
For every choking-related death, there are more than 100 visits to U.S. emergency departments.The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), noting that many of the prevention strategies currently in place to prevent choking on toys have not yet been implemented to prevent choking on food, issued a policy statement yesterday in connection with an article titled Prevention of Choking Among Children that will appear in the March issue of Pediatrics. Food or small objects can cause choking if they get caught in your throat and block your airway. This keeps oxygen from getting to your lungs and brain. If your brain goes without oxygen for more than four minutes, you could have brain damage or die. Choking is a leading cause of injury and death among children, especially children 3 years of age or younger, says AAPs Committee On Injury, Violence, And Poison Prevention.
Specific recommendations by the AAP include:
- Warning labels on foods that pose a high choking risk.
- A recall of food products that pose a significant choking hazard.
- The establishment of a nationwide food-related choking-incident surveillance and reporting system.
- Food manufacturers should design new food and redesign existing food to minimize choking risk.
- CPR and choking first aid should be taught to parents, teachers and child care providers.
- The existing National Electronic Injury Surveillance SystemAll Injury Program of the CPSC should be modified to conduct more-detailed surveillance of choking on food among children.
AAPs policy statement urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to establish a systematic, institutionalized process for examining and addressing the hazards of food-related choking. This process should include the establishment of the necessary surveillance, hazard evaluation, enforcement, and public education activities to prevent food-related choking among children. AAP opined that the Food and Drug Administration should have the authority to address choking-related risks of all food products, including meat products that fall under the jurisdiction of the US Department of Agriculture.
Children’s toys were also targeted in AAPs policy statement, which called upon the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to increase efforts to ensure that toys that are sold in retail store bins, vending machines, or on the Internet have appropriate choking-hazard warnings; work with manufacturers to improve the effectiveness of recalls of products that pose a choking risk to children; and increase efforts to prevent the resale of these recalled products via online auction sites. Choking-prevention standards for children’s toys should be re-evaluated and addressed, as appropriate, via revisions to the standards established under the Child Safety Protection Act, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, or regulation by the CPSC.
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