Our health news is clogged with new studies and startling findings on cancer, obesity, malaria, superfoods, heart disease. And now, the American Academy of Pediatricians is calling for a redesign of hot dogs.
If you're like me, your first thought is how a hot dog can possibly be a hot dog if it looks any different. And then, if you are a parent, you will recall how you've been scared to death that giving your child a hot dog will surely lead to Heimlich panic or worse.
Really, this fear is not unfounded. USA Today reports that 10,000 children under the age of 14 are treated in the emergency room every year after choking on food. Sadly, a new statement in Pediatrics says that up to 77 of those kids will die. They also assess that 17% of asphyxiations due to food can be blamed on hot dogs.
Because of these statistics, the AAP is asking food makers to address the size, shape, and texture of hot dogs to make them more safe and less likely to become wedged in a child's throat.
Some people have questioned whether warning labels are necessary for hot dogs and other foods that children can easily choke on. In response, Janet Riley, the president of the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council (let's be honest: it's an un-funny issue but I'd love to get a hold of about 10,000 of her business cards), says that about half of hot dog labels already include choking-prevention information and that educating parents and caregivers is the best way to address these concerns.
The retooling Riley suggests is one she used for her own children: "As a mother who has fed toddlers cylindrical foods like grapes, bananas, hot dogs and carrots, I 'redesigned' them in my kitchen by cutting them with a paring knife until my children were old enough to manage on their own."
The FDA will review the AAP's statement as well. In the meantime, I do agree it is scary that so many children have choked (especially to the point of death) on a food that is so much a part of American culture. I also think it is pretty concerning that hot dogs, not exactly the epitome of health and body-developing nutrition, are on kids' plates and high-chair trays so often.
I agree that perhaps hot dogs should be reexamined, but I'm also buying pediatrician and author of Feeding Baby Green Alan Greene's statement that we need to look outside the bun as well.
"The last thing we need is to redesign candy and junk food with cool shapes, so we can give them to kids even younger," Greene said.
To that, I toast my organic soda.
Should hot dogs get a makeover? Or is it on parents to cut up their kids' food better?
Chew on this:
- 5 "bad" foods you should be eating
- 12 things to stock your pantry with if you want to eat better
- Foods you should be eating every single day
[photo credit: Getty Images]