'Enjoy Tu Bishvat but watch kids' consumption'

Health Ministry reminder: Last year, three children died by choking on food.

January 26, 2010 23:47
1 minute read.
dried fruit 88

dried fruit 88. (photo credit: )

While Tu Bishvat, which falls this year on Shabbat, is a joyous occasion, some families end it with their child choking and even dying when traditional foods get stuck in their throats.

The New Year of Trees, originally set to mark the cutoff point when various tithes are separated from the Holy Land's produce, has turned into an ecological tree-planting, fruit-eating and land development holiday in Israel. It begins the season when the earliest-blooming trees here emerge from their winter sleep and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle.

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All kinds of fruit, fresh and even dried fruit imported from Turkey, are eaten - often in a Pessah-like seder such as that initiated by 16th century kabbalists, with prominence given to those singled out by the Torah in its praise of the bounty of the Holy Land: grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.

The Health Ministry warned Tuesday that children under the age of five should not be given nuts, hard pieces of dried fruit or other munchies that can get stuck in their tracheas, as their swallowing mechanism is not well enough developed. Young children over five can eat dried fruit such as raisins, dates, figs and others if they are cut into safe, bite-sized pieces.

Last year, three children died by choking on food.

Beterem, the National Center for Child Safety and Health, said that choking is the second most common cause of death from home and leisure accidents in children up to the age of 17 and represents 5.3 percent of unintentional deaths in this age group. It causes over 30% of deaths in children during their first year of life.

The most dangerous types of food in young children are round; smooth so they slide down the esophagus quickly to reach the opening of the trachea; fit snugly on the top of the trachea and prevent movement of air; sticky; and absorbent so they swell up in liquids. Nuts are the most problematic, Beterem said.

Since 2007, a law has been in effect that requires packages of such foods to be marked with warnings against their consumption by children under five.

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