The Debate Over Hot Dog-Shaped Hot Dogs

Keegan Hasan eats a hotdog.

hide captionEasy there, slugger! Keegan Hasan chows down on a dog at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

Marcio Sanchez/AP

From as far back as I can remember, hot dogs have been a staple of birthday parties, grilling out at ballparks, and city street vendors. I ate them as a child, and managed to succeed with style and grace (with the exception of some ketchup stains on my shirt), avoiding episodes of asphyxiation (broccoli and ribs are another story). Although the cylindrical, edible American pasttime has been nice to me, others believe that hot dogs better "shape up" or ship out.

USA Today reports that the American Academy of Pediatrics wants hot dogs to come packaged with a warning label, just like you'd find on a toy with small parts in, say, a Happy Meal. And it has nothing to do with nutritional content either. Each year, 10,000+ children under the age of 14 are rushed to the ER as a result of choking on food. Out of that group, 77 die. And 17% of the time, hot dogs are the culprit. Wow.

Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, knows firsthand that the stats on the franks don't lie one bit:

"If you were to take the best engineers in the world and try to design the perfect plug for a child's airway, it would be a hot dog. I'm a pediatric emergency doctor, and to try to get them out once they're wedged in, it's almost impossible."

On the contrary, Janey Riley, president of the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, notes that many hot dogs sold in stores already have warnings. Plus, it's more about prevention than anything:

"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."

Well, what do you think? Should we slap on the warning? Invent a new dog?

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