Food Safety For Infants

Choking on food is a problem that people encounter from time to time. For some, the anticipation of choking on food causes severe phobia and it is for this reason that they will choose not to eat many food types or textures. For most people the fear of choking concentrates mainly on choking on chicken or fish bones and, in the case of children, peanuts.

However, choking is a threat. Usually, and fortunately, small pieces of food enter the trachea. Such small pieces of food do not close off the ability to breathe altogether and, although great discomfort is experienced, the piece of food will be ejected with coughing.

Due to the fact that mankind evolved as a browser, meaning eating while on the move, it is likely that only smallish pieces of food were put into the mouth at any one time. Individuals would have been immersed in picking their food and concentrating on locating the best samples. Therefore, feeding would have been relatively personal and quiet.

Nowadays, many of us eat together. Meal times have gained many diversions such as watching the TV, singing, laughing and talking loudly. All of these diversions serve to divert us from eating our food attentively.

One of the main causes of ingesting food into the trachea is due to breathing through the mouth while eating. A lot of people take advantage of the opportunity of having an open mouth to fulfill two functions, namely that of taking a breath so as not to be short of breath while chewing and that of inserting food into the mouth.

The proper way to put food into the mouth, from a safety aspect would be to take a breath through the nose, then to open the mouth and to insert the food without taking a breath. One would then close the mouth to chew ones food, continuing to breath through the nose. Breathing through the mouth when eating is a bad habit with it’s risks attached.

Much can be do to lessen the risk of serious, life threatening choking in the way we cut our food. Food should bot be served in the form of balls or ovals. Everything should be at least cut in half. Food should not be cut into rings or disks. Strips are much safer for all age groups. Food should not be served in large pieces either because many people fail to chew their food and tend to swallow their food after only a few chews. Large pieces of food can stick in the throat and the muscular pressure that is created by the discomfort can push the epiglottis upwards leaving the trachea open for food to enter.

Powders are another cause of choking and discomfort, especially icing sugar. Again, if air is inhaled while placing the food item in the mouth, icing sugar will be taken into the trachea and cause a reaction that can lead to severe coughing and a choking sensation. There is not much to do about this other than to let the body deal with the problem, of, in serious cases to call for an ambulance.

While drinking we do not usually breathe through the mouth, however, accidental entry of liquids can enter the lung during coughing bouts. hiccups and loss of concentration such as when we burst into laughter. Usually these amounts are small and do not cause more than severe discomfort due to coughing, however, there have been cases where I have had to call an ambulance due to tracheal constriction which can happen, especially if the individual is asthmatic.The Heimlich ManeuverGraphic courtesy of

People preparing food for others should be particularly attentive to how the food is cut. Don’t cut corners and hope for the best. Always be two steps ahead of your diners with respect to their safety at the dining table. You are taking care of them so rely on Murphy’s law of the kitchen. “anything that can happen will happen, if left to chance.”

In the visual aid you will see how to perform the Heimlich maneuver. This maneuver is a technique used to force food blocking the trachea back through the mouth. When done on small children this maneuver should be done using the fingertips only.


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Seeing your child choking on a piece of hotdog, carrot or anything else for that matter is a very stressful experience for any parent. Here’s a few tip on how to avoid child choking. The subject of food safety also includes how we prepare food for specific groups who may encounter problems swallowing the food correctly if it’s presented to them in the wrong way.

Never feed a child anything that is hard and round always cut into strips lengthwise. Cutting this way will in no way disturb training your child how to chew corectly. This is particularly important if your child was born with a weakness of the jaw muscles or any other type of bucal cavity disorder, tongue disorder or other disorders of the oesophagus, larynx or pyloric stenitis. Some problematic types of food which demand special attention for toddlers include: hotdogs, sausages, carrots, cellery, cucumbers, olives, cheries, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, small beets, small Parisienne potatoes, melon balls, large whole beans, etc. Children may also encounter food which is difficult to swallow such as peanut butter on bread, boiled egg sandwiches and the like, so always have a glass of water on hand to help to wash those pasty dry foods down should the need arise.

Do not feed your children hard candies, boiled sweets, jelly beans, toffee, mentos, gob stoppers, wine gums, chewing gum or any tye of peanut, hazel nut, almond, macademia nut or pistachio until they are at least 7 years old. Prefer fudge, jelly babies, marsh mallows or any other soft and non round sweet.
Do not feed your children buscuits made out of fine corn starch because this can form a glue like mass that can clog the back of the throat. Likewise do not allow your child to eat any fruit with large pips and/or seeds before you take the pip or seed out.

It is also not advisable to feed children any type of fish that may contain bones until they are at least ten years old. All fish products for small children should be ground into a paste.

Common sense is the rule of thumb in preparing food for toddlers. It is not enough to think how to cut food so that it will be small enough to chew, it is also necessary to think of how to cut food so that it will not cause an obstruction of the wind pipe. A responsible attitude and forward thinking work to prevent unnecessary stress for both parent and child and can even prevent what amount to unnecessary tragedies in quite a few cases. Keep food safety in mind when preparing food for your children.

NB. Round objects in a childs mouth can be mistaken for a bolus of food which can cause the mouth’s sensory organs to become confused and to send the object to the throat cavity. By being too large to swallow the epiglottis tries to eject the foreign object from the larynx which leaves the object hovering over the open trachea. The natural instinct to take a deep breath can cause the object in question to be drawn into the wind pipe where it causes an obstruction to air flow. In the following educational film clip you will be shown how to perform safe rescue techniques on children and infants. Every parent should become familiar with these techniques.

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