Food safety

Here are some suggestions to help avoid choking and other health problems with food.


  • Don’t give foods that are round, hard, small, thick and sticky, smooth, or slippery to children under 4 years of age.  If a child chokes while eating, these foods can easily be breathed into the lungs. Such foods include:
    • nuts
    • hard candy
    • popcorn
    • whole grapes
    • raw peas
    • dried fruit (other than moist raisins)
    • pretzels
    • marshmallows
    • spoonfuls of peanut butter
    • chunks of meat larger than can be swallowed whole
    • sausages, hot dogs, and other long, thin foods
  • Cut infant food into chunks smaller than 6 millimeters (1/4 inch).  Toddler food should be cut into chunks smaller than 12 millimeters (1/2 inch).
  • Be sure you know how to handle a choking episode.  It is common for children learning to eat finger foods to gag and cough.  But immediate attention is required if the child chokes—turns blue or cannot make voice sounds.

Other Hazards

  • Do not feed honey to children younger than 1 year of age.  Check food and formula labels to be sure that honey has not been used as a sweetener.  Honey can cause botulism (a rare but serious paralytic illness) in infancy.
  • Do not use Styrofoam cups and plates with children under 4 years old.
  • Be aware of any children’s food allergies and of the emergency steps to be taken should an allergic child consume the problem food.  Be especially alert at birthday parties or other occasions when parents may not be aware of the allergy problem.  For the safety of some highly allergic children, the offending food may need to be banned from rooms the child ever uses or from the entire child care setting. With parent consent, post the child’s photograph with a highly visible notation of the child’s allergy to remind everyone, including visiting family members not to give the child the offending food.
  • Do not allow children to eat while walking, running, playing, lying down, or riding in vehicles.

Download the indoor safety poster