If you’re thinking about popping some dried fruit or popcorn into your pre-schooler’s lunchbox, then think again.
The Ministry of Health has introduced new guidelines to reduce the risk of babies and young children at early childhood education (ECE) centres around the country choking on their food.
Babies and young children have an increased risk of choking on food due to their small air and food passages, which can be easily blocked by small objects. Their biting and chewing skills are also not fully developed and they have a less effective cough mechanism.
The new guidelines came into force on 25 January 2021 and recommend that food provided by ECE centres be developmentally appropriate for children, that teachers and kiako know choking first aid and CPR, and that there is a safe physical environment while kids are eating.
In ECE centres where food is not provided, the new guidelines must be promoted to parents and caregivers.
Foods that have a high choking risk include:
- whole or pieces of nuts
- large seeds, like pumpkin or sunflower seeds
- hard or chewy sweets or lollies
- crisps or chippies
- hard rice crackers
- dried fruit
- sausages, saveloys and cheerios
There are also guidelines on how to alter high-risk food to lower its choking risk. Examples include:
- removing the skin from chicken
- grating raw carrot, apple or celery
- cooking vegetables until soft
- removing stones, large seeds and pips from fruit and vegetables
- finely chopping, quartering or halving grapes, berries and cherry tomatoes
- finely slicing or chopping salad leaves, spinach and cabbage
- removing bones from food
- using smooth, thick pastes sparingly.
If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your ECE centre or visit the Ministry of Health website for more information.
- Preventing choking in young children Ministry of Health, NZ, 2014
- Reducing food-related choking for babies and young children at early learning services Ministry of Health, NZ, 2020