Kids and Choking: Does the Hot Dog Need a Makeover?

Should peanuts, popcorn and raw carrots come with a disclaimer? The New York Times reported that The American Academy of Pediatrics wants to require warning labels on foods that are known choking hazards, similar to the guidelines in place for toys. AAP is also urging manufacturers to redesign foods that pose the greatest choking hazard, like the hot dog. While the president of the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council says it’s not going to happen (two-thirds of hot dogs already have labels), a food designer has come up with a new hot dog with eight slits that open and break apart into small pieces when cooked and eaten.

While there are no recent nationwide figures on food choking, it remains a big concern among parents, especially for the under-4 set who’s at the highest risk. Would you stock up on specially designed hot dogs for your summer barbecues? The idea got moms talking in the iVillage office:

"I definitely give my 15-month-old (organic, turkey) hot dogs – it’s one of his very favorite foods -- but I remove the skin and cut it up into small pieces," said a mother of two. "I have no problem with changing the design or adding a warning – what’s the reason not to? But it’s still up to parents to be educated and make the right decision. Now, legislating that they make hot dog bun packages with the same number of buns that come in a hot dog packages themselves -- would be legislation I can get behind!"

"I think the redesigned hot dog is a good idea in theory but I don't think it's necessary," noted one mom of a 3-year-old. "The most important thing is to cut the hot dog -- though I will admit that I don't cut it lengthwise and then in pieces for my 3-year-old daughter. But in giving this whole subject more thought, I will definitely do that going forward. The idea of her choking is so scary to me."

"I wouldn't pay any more for a fancy design when I can cut up a hot dog myself," added a mom of an almost 4-year-old. "Honestly, I wouldn't even feed my son hot dogs in any form until he was nearly 3, and then I often cut the hot dog in half vertically. I was really nervous about him choking. That's in large part because my stepfather gave my son a matzoh cracker when he was about a year and a half old, and he nearly choked on it. I still remember the absolute terror I felt when I saw him gagging and was frantically pulling the chunks of cracker out of his mouth and throat so he could breathe. It was a relief when he started bawling. But the experience left me so shaken that I was ready to puree everything he ate until he was 6. I've mellowed out a bit since, as the months have passed without any more incidents. I still avoid giving him baby carrots though, and often cut up apples and grapes before I hand them over. And I've yet to let him try another matzoh cracker."

Do you think hot dog makers should be forced to redesign their dogs? Chime in below!

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