Tu Bishvat goodies can pose choking risk to small children

Consumers have already begun shopping for a multitude of varieties of fruits and nuts.

January 9, 2014 18:24
2 minute read.
Tu Bishvat

Tu Bishvat. (photo credit: Courtesy )


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Consumers have already begun shopping for a multitude of varieties of fruits and nuts to hold a Tu Bishvat Seder marking the new year of trees Wednesday night and Thursday next week. But while the products are very nutritious, though fattening, the tasty treats pose dangers when small children get their hands on them.

The minor holiday – on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat – is one of four traditional “new years” and became the date for calculating when the agricultural cycle began and ended for the purpose of biblical tithes.

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It has become traditional to eat species of the Land of Israel on Tu Bishvat. The holiday 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.

Although the holiday is next week, many families have already purchased dried fruit, nuts, and other food that may pose risks to young children. The swallowing mechanism in youngsters under the age of five is undeveloped, so they often have difficulty coordinating their swallowing with their breathing, especially when they eat while speaking or playing.

Hard objects especially can choke them, the Health Ministry warns. Additionally, nuts and other foods may absorb liquids and swell and become sticky; they can easily get caught in the air tube and prevent breathing. Thus the ministry urges parents not to give children under five nuts and other small pieces of food traditionally eaten on Tu Bishvat.

Choking on foreign objects such as Tu Bishvat fruits and nuts is responsible for more than half of deaths in children before their first birthday.

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.

Prof. Yehezkel Weissman, head of the urgent medicine unit at Petah Tikva’s Schneider Children’s Medical Center, listed nuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, cashew nuts, almonds, and hard fruits as dangerous when fed to young children. These foods should also not be left accessible to children, he said. If they are given any at all, they should be cut lengthwise to become narrow so they do not get stuck in the trachea. Always remove seeds from fruits before giving them in bitesized pieces to children.

While Tu Bishvat goodies are full of minerals like iron, potassium, and magnesium, fiber and vitamins, one shouldn’t exaggerate in their consumption, because they are fattening. Prefer those to which sugar has not been added, but even those with natural sugar have many calories.

Dried fruits take up less space than fresh fruits, so they have more calories than an equal weight of fresh fruit.

Twelve dates are equal to 275 calories, while five figs contain 260 calories and dried prunes 115.

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