NPR logo

Video: Japan Created Easy-To-Swallow Foods To Prevent Senior Choking Deaths

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/532716164/536782071" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Video: Japan Created Easy-To-Swallow Foods To Prevent Senior Choking Deaths

Video: Japan Created Easy-To-Swallow Foods To Prevent Senior Choking Deaths

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/532716164/536782071" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Here's a crazy statistic. As Japanese society ages, more people are dying from choking deaths than traffic accidents. The problem has led to a whole new line of food designed to prevent choking. As part of her series Elise Tries, NPR's Elise Hu took a taste test.

ELISE HU, BYLINE: We are going to try out specialized food for senior citizens or, as the slogan reads, bringing continued pleasure of eating until the last breath.

This new line of food is called Engay, which means swallow in Japanese. Nearly 10,000 Japanese die from choking each year, most of them elderly. Hearing and speech professor Isamu Shibamoto has been studying the trends.

ISAMU SHIBAMOTO: (Through interpreter) We are very much surprised at the speed that it has reached this level.

HU: Purees that look like baby food aren't appetizing. So here's where the innovation comes in. An original dish, say grilled salmon, is pureed, then a jelling agent is added to the mix. Once it becomes harder and easier to mold, that gelatinous salmon puree is molded like Play-Doh until it looks like the original food. I had to give this a try.

Here we go. Note - I am not chewing. I'm just breaking this down with my tongue. It tastes like - it tastes like salmon. It tastes like salmon. To prevent choking on liquids, the powdered jelling agent thickens beverages of any kind within a few seconds. In this demo, we tried a thickened juice.

This isn't as syrupy as I expected it would be. It's as if orange juice had a bunch of cornstarch in it.

While these food products aren't as delicious as their original versions, they have an added benefit for a rapidly aging Japan. They're specially designed not to accidentally kill you. Elise Hu, NPR News, Tokyo.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOE'S "YOU GO")

MARTIN: To see this easy-to-swallow food for yourself - and I know you want to - check out the video at npr.org/elisetries.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOE'S "YOU GO")

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.