Hot dogs are delicious. Especially if you don’t think too hard about what they’re made of. Kids love them. So do adults. With baseball’s spring training already underway, consumption of the national pastime’s unofficial food is set to skyrocket in the coming months.
All is not sunshine, happiness, and home runs, though. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention thinks that hot dogs are dangerous, calling them a “high-risk food.” They are a choking hazard for children.
“We know what shape, sizes and consistencies pose the greatest risk for choking in children and whenever possible food manufacturers should design foods to avoid those characteristics, or redesign existing foods when possible, to change those characteristics to reduce the choking risk,” said Dr. Gary Smith… “Any food that has a cylindrical or round shape poses a risk,” he pointed out.
Dr. Smith also wants mandatory warning label regulations for all hot dog packaging. But nobody seems to be asking: Just how big is the risk here?
According to WebMD, 66 to 77 children under 10 die every year from choking on food in the U.S. That’s out of more than 42,000,000 children under 10, according to my calculations from U.S. Census data.
That means your child’s odds of choking to death on food are about 1 in 545,000. And that’s assuming 77 deaths, the high end of the range. Little Timmy is literally more likely to be struck by lightning (1 in 500,000) than choke to death on a hot dog.
That’s the level of threat we’re dealing with. Treat it that way.
Our children face far greater threats than mere hot dogs. Instead of advocating hot dog safety regulations of dubious benefit, the AAP should rethink its priorities. They should focus on where they can do the most good, instead of where they can do the most nothing.
How many of those choking deaths are non-hot dog related? I’d wager quite a few. The actual probability of choking on a ballpark frank is probably much smaller than your estimate.
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