Photo"Finger foods" aren't just the hors d'oeuvres served at cocktail parties, they're also the first foods that infants eat by themselves, and pediatricians say they're supposed to be soft, easy to swallow, and cut up into small pieces.

But researchers say not all products meet that description. In an abstract being presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies 2016 meeting, the scientists reported testing nine products marketed as first finger foods for babies to see if they met the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

The verdict was mixed. "Products marketed as first finger foods vary across texture, ease of swallowing and size," said Dr. Nicol Awadalla of the Cohen Children's Medical Center in New York. Only two products tested met all AAP criteria, she said, and choking hazard concerns were raised about four of the nine products. 

There was considerable variability in product size, shape, and consistency, even though they were categorized for children in the same life stage. Several products needed to be broken into smaller pieces in order to be "infant bite-sized," she said.

The study, "Chew on This: Not All Products Labeled First Finger Foods Are Created Equal," 11 blinded researchers were given each food at random and asked to dissolve it in their mouth without the use of teeth.

Dry and tough

They sampled each product four times -- twice when it was fresh and two more times after it had been left out for at least an hour. They then recorded how long it took to for the food to dissolve completely or become small enough that swallowing was unavoidable.

Two of the products took much longer to dissolve after they had been out of the package for awhile. Names of the products were not immediately released, but the researchers said the manufacturers had been notified of their findings. 

"Not all products marketed for children have been tested in real-life situations," said senior investigator Ruth Milanaik, DO, director of the Neonatal Neurodevelopmental Follow Up program at Cohen. "Parents need to be aware that changes in consistency can occur in food products that are left out of the packaging for extended periods of time, resulting in a possible choking hazard."

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