Two of the most popular snack foods for toddlers could pose major health risks to young children, with experts warning parents to steer clear of the treats
Kidsafe SA chief executive Holly Fitzgerald issued the dire warning for traditional-sized marshmallows and popcorn, noting they were “often-overlooked” as a choking hazard for children under 5.
Speaking to 9 News, she said the items could be “dangerous” for young children.
“Traditional-sized marshmallows are that perfect size to lodge inside a child’s oesophagus,” Ms Fitzgerald said.
Popcorn is also listed as a dangerous food for young children by the Royal Children’s Hospital, because it can be “easily inhaled and block the breathing tubes”.
Despite these dangers, popcorn is routinely given to young children and toddlers at daycare centres.
“My daughter was less than two and they were serving popcorn as an afternoon snack. I explained that it was a huge choking risk and they have since stopped serving it as a snack,” a shocked parent wrote on the Tiny Hearts Education Instagram page.
“Popcorn is often overlooked because we look at popcorn as a healthy option for our little ones,” Nikki Jurcutz from Tiny Hearts Education told 9 News.
Marshmallows are especially dangerous because their sticky consistency makes it very difficult to get them out of a child’s throat if they get stuck.
“The back blows and the chest thrusts that we instruct parents to do (if a child is choking) often won’t actually be able to clear the airwave for the marshmallows,” Jurcutz said in the same interview.
A total of 321 babies under the age of four were hospitalised after choking in 2021-22, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Ms Fitzgerald says there should be a push for new guidelines around what snacks are suitable for young kids.
“20 years ago I think was the last time there was the last time there was a really hard push or a campaign around the safe eating for the under-3’s or under 4’s,” she told 9 News.
Popcorn should be avoided altogether for children under 5 according to NSW Government guidelines.
Marshmallows can be made safer for little ones by cutting them up, or swapping them out for mini marshmallows, say the Tiny Hearts Foundation.