Monday, February 22, 2010


Today, I noticed this headline:

Pediatricians call for a choke-proof hot dog

I thought that would make a great idea for creating product that would do something useful (reduce harm) and quite likely also be profitable. Then I read this part of the story:

"More than 10,000 children under 14 go to the emergency room each year after choking on food, and up to 77 die, says the new policy statement..."

Ummm, the fatality risk is .77%? Mind you, this is for incidents which actually end up in the emergency room. Presumably, a choking incident that gets resolved at home doesn’t result in such a trip, make the rate even more skewed. Obviously, we don’t want to have preventable harm going on, but we don’t have infinite resources to reduce harm, and must stack rank what we will try and prevent. Typically, we would do that by looking at impact of the event, risk of occurrence, and cost of countermeasures.

"No parents can watch all of their kids 100% of the time," Smith says. "The best way to protect kids is to design these risks out of existence."

Uhhh, no. Is this really the level of risk we should be taking seriously? When I look at this math, this particular risk drops waaaay down the list. I particularly enjoyed the obligatory quote-from-industry-giant at the bottom of the article:

"As a mother who has fed toddlers cylindrical foods like grapes, bananas, hot dogs and carrots, I 'redesigned' them in my kitchen by cutting them with a paring knife until my children were old enough to manage on their own,"

Sing it sister!


  1. isabella choked once. sadly, i could not cut this item to a more "manageable" size. it was a quarter. rather traumatic for us both but it also makes that % even lower as we never went to the er.

  2. Wait, that last quote is a joke, right? Right??

  3. I completely agree! There are more than enough things which really would make a significant difference to worry about.

  4. With 4 active boys, I have found that I can't spend too much time worrying about every possible risk or I would be crazy.

  5. I guess they could be taught to chew their food.

  6. I was going to say what Terra said: How about teaching them food is to be chewed, not gobbled down – we are not boa constrictors, children.