While choking hazards in toys have been widely publicized and addressed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), ironically choking hazards in food have lacked federal attention despite the fact that food is far more likely to go into a child’s mouth. Intertek, a leading provider of quality and safety solutions for a wide range of industries worldwide, has contributed to a recently released policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to establish a systematic process for examining and addressing the hazards of food-related choking to mandate improvements to food design.
According to the study and Intertek’s Food Physical Safety Analysis research, children 3 and under are at the highest risk of choking injuries or fatalities due to issues in food design and packaging—with more than three-fourths of all choking injuries occurred among this age group. The need for incorporating a better understanding of the feeding and swallowing process for adults and children of various ages and abilities is therefore apparent. Highlighting several risky food items, from hot dogs to peanut butter, the study urges food manufacturers to not only consider shapes, sizes, textures, and packaging risks when designing new food items, but to also redesign existing foods on the market.
Intertek’s research on developmental structures and the processes behind human airway obstruction has pioneered the field of food physical safety testing. Using rheological measurements, statistical analysis, medical consultation, observational studies and injury and fatality data, risk factors can be observed and compared in a wide range of foods. While looking at age and physical ability for swallowing and feeding, the tools used measure factors as size, shape, texture (i.e. slipperiness), hardness and dissolvability to provide benchmarks for hazard levels based on historical data for similar food products.
Gene Rider, President of Intertek Consumer Goods North America, said, “The AAP policy statement highlights the findings and suggestions that Intertek has pioneered for years in consulting with food clients. Addressing the vast data on physical hazards of certain foods is a significant step towards helping manufacturers improve their understanding of safe food packaging and design. Prevention of choking and other food hazards is not only possible, but necessary to recognize, and we are pleased to contribute to all research in supporting that end.”