February 23, 2010 Pediatricians are issuing a warning about hot dogs, but it's not what you think. It has nothing to do with fat, sodium or the filler they use in the popular meat product. This time the physicians are worried about the hot dog's potential to choke youngsters.

The American Academy of Pediatricians has issued a call for food manufacturers to alter the design of the hot dog so that children are more likely to eat it in smaller bites. The group noted that choking is a leading cause of injury and death among children, especially children three years of age or younger.

Food, toys and coins account for most of the choking-related events in young children, who put objects in their mouths as they explore new environments. According to AAP, more than 10,000 children under age 14 choke on food each year, and up to 77 percent die.

In its new policy statement, Prevention of Choking Among Children, to be published in the March issue of Pediatrics, AAP offers recommendations for government agencies, manufacturers, parents, teachers, child care workers and health care professionals to help prevent choking among children.

Because the size, shape and consistency of certain toys and food increase the possibility of being a choking hazard, and because many of the prevention strategies currently in place to prevent choking on toys have not yet been implemented to prevent choking on food, the AAP recommends:

• Warning labels on foods that pose a high choking risk.

• A recall of food products that pose a significant choking hazard.

• The establishment of a nationwide food-related choking-incident surveillance and reporting system.

• Food manufacturers should design new food and redesign existing food to minimize choking risk.

• CPR and choking first aid should be taught to parents, teachers and child care providers.

Pediatricians should continue to provide guidance to parents on safe and appropriate food and toy choices, as recommended by the AAP, the group said in a statement.

Janet Riley, President of the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, said she agrees that parents should be better educated about food choking hazards. However, she questioned whether warnings on package labels would be effective.