Safety First in 2019: How to Outsmart the Top 10 Food Choking Hazards

Hi everyone!

With 2018 almost in the bag, we’re looking forward to a safe and healthy new year. What better way to start off than with a refresher course in the most crucial area of child safety (because we can’t avoid feeding them, right?): choking hazards and food safety. We’ve brought in guest contributor Kristin Markovich to give us a rundown of how to keep our kids safe at mealtime.

Kristin is a marketing professional and children's book author who lives in Westchester with her husband and small children. Her current book project is related to mealtime safety (stay tuned for more info!), so chewing and choking are top-of-mind for her right now.

First, the sad facts: At least one child dies from choking on food every five days in the US, and more than 12,000 children are taken to the emergency room each year for food-choking injuries, according to the New York State Department of Health.

NYSDOH also warns us that “the size of a young child's trachea or breathing tube is approximately the size of a drinking straw in diameter, so think about a food’s size and texture and avoid anything that can get lodged in that small space.”

Okay, now that we’ve scared you, let’s get down to business. Here are the top foods to watch out for, according to the NY State Department of Health.



1: Hot dogs

Hot dogs are first on the list for good reason; they are rubbery, round, and dense—a worrisome combination for little eaters. In fact, many hot dog packages now include a child choking warning. They are such a top hazard that pediatricians have begun warning parents about them during wellness visits. I personally have decided to eliminate hot dogs from my kids’ diet until they are older. If you do serve hot dogs, and let’s be honest, it’s hard to avoid them entirely, be sure to cut the hot dog lengthwise first into two parts, not widthwise into grape-size coin shapes. It’s also recommended to remove the casing if possible.

2: Hard Candy

Experts have decided that hard candy is just too dangerous. Kids’ mouths are too small for the size of most hard candies, and they can’t reliably keep a hard candy in their mouth for a long period of time without accidentally swallowing it. Conclusion: Do not give hard candy to little ones, no matter how much they insist. Included in this category are cough drops and gooey candy.

3: Whole Grapes

Grapes should always be cut into slivers. I know an ER doctor with middle-school aged children who still slices grapes for his kids due to what he has witnessed on the job. Plan to be cutting up this fruit for years to come. OXO Tot makes a grape slicer to make this job easier for you and fun for toddlers.


4: Raw Carrots

All raw vegetables are included here, but I’m calling out carrots because of personal experience. I served my pre-schooler carrot sticks, and he ended up getting a small piece lodged in his throat. A few big coughs later and he was fine, but I received the message loud and clear.

When you serve carrots, make sure you cut then into skinny sticks (think matchsticks). Now when I serve carrots to my son, I hover over him and constantly repeat “chew, chew, chew!” And it goes without saying that only steamed carrots should be served to the very young. Raw carrots are too hard to chew for an infant without many teeth or much patience.

5: Popcorn & Chips

The dry nature of this food is why it makes the list. That, and kids’ tendency to eat mouthfuls at a time. Practice saying “One at a time!” when they reach into the bowl.

6: Bones

Always double check for hidden bones when serving meat or fish.

7: Peanut Butter

This gooey food can clump and be hard to swallow, so be sure to spread peanut butter thinly with a knife.

8: Cheese Cubes

Long and thin is the way to go when serving cheese, not round or cubed. (Are you seeing a theme with hazardous food shapes?)

9: Nuts

‘Tis the season for nuts! So be sure to chop!

10: Marshmallows

‘Tis also the season for hot chocolate! Consider skipping the marshmallows for kids under 5, or stick to one or two mini-marshmallows only. Some hot chocolate brands have a marshmallow flavor that contains extra-tiny marshmallows inside the mix.

Bottom line: Make sure you chop chop chop and they chew chew chew their food! Have a safe, and Happy New Year! -Kristin & Andrea

Psst… got something to do yet for New Year’s Eve?

Click here for our list of kid-friendly events and afternoon ball drops!

Books by Kristin Arden:

The Fruit Circus

This book tells the story of some very special performing fruit that help to make heathy eating fun for your little ones. Available on

Best Baby in the World

Sing your love! The loving lyrics and adorable illustrations make this book an instant classic that you'll want to share with baby over and over again. The sheet music is included at the end of the book. Available on and click here for the music video.

That's it for this week. Don’t forget to check out our exclusive list of every children's library program in WestchesterMany programs are on winter hiatus, so be sure to check the library’s calendar to be sure the event you want to attend is still happening. And for more special events every day, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

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See you next time!