Monday Bites - Grapes

This is the final week in my month long focus on baby finger foods that are fresh and unprocessed. And we’re finishing up with a bang – I’m going to review the child-favourite but parent feared GRAPE.

Recommended age: not provided

Age you could probably offer this: 10-12mo chopped into quarters, chopped in half from 12+mo (depending on teeth & chewing skills)

Shape: perfectly elongated airway-plugging shape

Size: classic ‘this is a choking hazard’ size

Texture: soft crunch & chew

Grapes. This delicious little guys are adored by children across the globe. They are sweet, give a lovely crunch followed by a soft chew, and are fun to eat. But parents have often avoided this fruit, particularly in recent years as the awareness of grapes as a choking hazard has grown.

But is all the hype about grapes potentially killing your child just that? Hype?

Well, actually, no. A study published in 2008 looked at food-related incidents in children and the foods that were most likely to cause a fatal outcome from airway blockage (ie, choking causing death) were foods that were hard, round, and had a smooth ‘elastic’ skin on them. Pretty much just described a grape. And grapes were the third most common food to cause fatal choking (after hotdogs and hard sweets). I would also hazard a guess that with the popularity of cherry & grape tomatoes these days that they would now be on the list somewhere too. The smooth skin is important to note – this is why it’s a particularly fatal choking hazard because the outside of the food ‘grips’ against the sides of the airway and the size makes it fit much like a plug. So typical first aid for choking doesn’t always work. The most at-risk group of children who were most likely to choke to death were children under the age of three. Which makes sense as this is when children are still learning how to bite and chew.

You might have seen images like this one of a child with a grape stuck at the top of their airway doing the rounds on Facebook (this image via Finlee & Me). Makes you wince just looking at it!

When our parents were feeding us grapes when we were children, they would have usually peeled them & cut them up because the skins were thicker and harder for small children to chew, and you needed to get the seeds out. But grapes sold in the supermarket today have very thin skins and generally are seedless, so it’s easy to just serve them ‘as is’. But if you are serving them to small children, please cut them in half LENGTHWAYS and for babies please cut them into QUARTERS so that, if your child were to accidentally have one go down the wrong way and choke, a tight plug-like seal cannot be made between the skin of the grape and all of the airway.

No need to avoid grapes entirely, it would be a shame to not offer them because they are so delicious! Just take some simple precautions and the risk of any major problems will drop significantly. There isn’t any age recommended by doctors or health institutes about when is safe to stop cutting grapes up for kids... what do you think? What age did you / will you stop?

And remember, always supervise your baby when they are eating, no matter how easy you think the food might be to eat.

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