My Chat with NPR About “Hazardous Hot Dogs”

Hi Readers:  Here it is! NPR’s Lynn Neary and me, talking about the things that parents are encouraged to believe are “risky.” Enjoy (carefully)! — Lenore

18 Responses

  1. Nicely done, Lenore!

  2. How many of the parents who will avoid hot dogs entirely because of this will also make sure to avoid taking their kids for a ride in the car, which is far riskier — and avoidable. Not to mention that it would probably put a serious dent in the obesity epidemic if people walked more places instead of getting into their cars…

  3. JMP- what surprises me more, is the parents who would avoid hot dogs and then strap their child into the car with a seat that is grossly incorrectly installed and a harness so loose that the term “baby launcher” comes to mind…

    I thought it was common sense that you automatically cut infant and toddlers food into small, less likely to block airway sizes? I mean, mommy bird doesn’t stick the whole worm in a chicks mouth. What I find slightly horrifying is the amount of parents who think hot dogs twice a day are perfectly fine nutrition choices for their wee ones.

  4. As always, Lenore–congratulations–you are doing such a great job of getting the word out to a big audience.

  5. I read your hazardous hot dog article, but I disagree on how we got here. The clue is in the last sentence where you, in jest, say keep the kids locked up inside doing various things like watching TV – where kids can learn about products to buy at an early age. Don’t you watch TV? It’s run by commercials, remember? Because if you had, you would notice that for decades businesses have found more and more ways to sell the public items to protect them from hazards, like antibacterial soap and other absurdly ridiculous products. It’s one TV ad after another warning us to buy this new item. And when times are slow, like today, they use the scare tactics even more since people will always spend money if they’re scared. Businesses have been promoting and making money off these products for decades and, through the power of propaganda – meaning scare advertising, – the public eats it up. This is how this all began and the rest of the people – and the government – followed. Of course, people like Nader worked at making cars safe. But that’s reasonable and real safety – no one would argue with that – but taking it to the extreme like today is the product of American businesses looking for new ways to sell something using the oldest trick in the book; scare tactics.

  6. Nicole-
    No disagreement on the baby launchers, but the conditioning of Americans against walking even the shortest of distances starts at a very young age.

    My four year old son has no issue with walking to and from places that are a half mile from home. In fact, he does about a half mile of walking each way to and from school on most days. He gets tired if he walks more than a couple of miles in a day, but he loves doing it, and will never complain about the amount of walking. Of course, we live in NYC and don’t own a car, so my boys don’t get into a car more than about a half dozen times a year — putting them at substantially lower risk of being in a car accident than most Americans their ages.

    Then again, we compensate by taking them to professional sporting events more than a dozen times a year, where we let them eat deadly hot dogs — and sometimes sit in seating sections where there’s a risk that a foul ball might come our way! (Actually, with my younger son, who started with hot dogs at ball games when he was about 16 months old, I would share a hot dog with him, trading bites so that I could strategically remove the skin and set him up to be able to take small enough bites. It was much easier than trying to cut up a hot dog at a ball game, and he loved being able to eat one the “same” way as all the grown ups.)

    More seriously, while we don’t actually avoid the car because of the risks associated with it, we all enjoy our car-free lifestyle, and don’t feel like we’re missing out on anything. Moreover, we do feel that there are significant health benefits to our boys to learning to walk everywhere at a young age. Furthermore, when we’re walking, we can put our 4 year old in charge of navigating whenever we go someplace familiar — reinforcing his sense of direction and his understanding of local geography — which we could never do in a car. As a result, he really knows his way around the areas he goes regularly so well that we’re confident that when he’s old enough to really start going places by himself, there will never be any risk of his getting lost.

  7. Glad we have a mom like you in our corner, Lenore. Well done.

  8. i agree. i am so glad you’re speaking for millions of us who feel the same way. keep it up – am spreading your gospel on facebook!

  9. Great interview, Lenore!

  10. “Sucking on their hotdog milkshake”…I love it! Great interview.

  11. Hot dogs bad! Chicken nuggets good!

  12. While I often agree with Lenore, I had a hard time with this topic due to a personal connection. My cousin’s child died from choking on a (cut up piece of a) hot dog. Before being critical of overprotective parents, it is important to be sensitive to personal experiences. Most concerns spring from real life, however statistically unlikely it is that it will happen to your child.

  13. I loved the interview!!

    I I’m lucky my kids made it out of toddlerhood. I think that’s what scares people most – because it could really happen in a split second when I am not looking. However, I know people who are making their decisions completely based on fear and not actual experiences.

    I think what I’m saying here is, managing toddler food is normal parenting. Labeling food as dangerous is beyond common sense. It is fearmongering and a little judgmental. There are people that think “unlike me, all those other parents are careless or stupid and SOMEBODY should tell them.”. Either that, or hotdog companies don’t want to get sued.

  14. Madeleine — That’s the point, though, the general public is getting too worked up over things that are statistically unlikely to happen.

    Such things are what I call The World’s Shittiest Lotteries™. That is, things that are statistically unlikely to happen, but are/can be soul-shattering to the not-so-lucky people such events do happen to. Yes, there are people who are going to be the exception to the rule of people being overly paranoid, but they are tiny minority, and while people should take a general precaution to things that do pose certain amounts of risk, they should also do so with common sense.

    You cut up food for a small child because they can choke on bigger pieces, but you don’t puree the food when they’re old enough to adequately chew the small pieces. You lock your car doors when you leave, but you don’t wrap it in electrified barbed wire to keep people from trying to steal it.

    I understand that the topic would be a hard one on you, given your circumstances, and I apologize if I sound cold. I’m really not, but such situations are nearly impossible to confront objectively without coming off as cold.

  15. JMP – While I agree with you about the relative dangers of the car, your post assumes that walking is a option for most people and riding in a car is avoidable. It is not in most places. These days, most towns and cities have been designed for a car culture and do not have sidewalks or businesses clustered together so that walking is not realistic. So to indict parents of not being concerned about the dangers of putting their children into cars is not really fair. Most people have never experienced any other way of life.

    I used to live in NYC and loved being able to walk everywhere and not have to own a car. I think that we are doing ourselves a great disservice by creating drive only towns and cities. Not only from the standpoint of the benefits of walking on our health but also sacrificing community. We don’t get know the people around us and we live in a much more isolated world.

    As for the risk of putting your child in a car, my son’s dr. used that comparison a few years ago. While explaining the risks of some minor surgery for my son, the dr. said that the risks were much lower than getting in the car and driving somewhere. Makes you think.

  16. KGEM – but people have not made the decision that living in a walkable community is an important feature when selecting a home. If they did, communities would make it a priority to install sidewalks, as they would increase property values.

    The fact of the matter is that most American communities aren’t designed in a way that allows people to walk to most of the places they have to go in their everyday lives because that’s not something most American people want in a home. If larger numbers of people wanted to live places where they could avoid getting into the car, more such places would have been built. Blaming the lack of walking on community design is to shortchange the impact of marketplace demand on the design of those communities.

    Of course, it all goes back to the big auto makers convincing Americans that every family needs a car and a garage to put it in back in the 1950s.

  17. I didn’t read the other replies.
    I was talking about the hot dogs the other day to my mother who said “Well, you know, there are some really negligent parents out there who don’t think to cut hot dogs up small enough.”
    My reply was “once there is a label on the hot dogs, these same parents will think that if there ISN”T a label on a food, then there is no way it could choke a child.”
    Kind of like the bathtub temperature checkers – once they came out, there are parents who believe they are not capable of sticking a hand in the bath to check the temperature of the water – they need to be told when it is ok.

  18. JMP, it’s not just market, it’s zoning laws. Yes, that goes back to the wants of the people in the community, but it’s also the wants of the people in the community 30-50 years ago, when these laws were established. It’s now ILLEGAL in most places to open a grocery store in a residential area. Just because people today might want more walkable communities, we can’t just wish for it as long a the laws are in place. And even if the laws are repealed, what do we do — tear down existing neighborhoods and business districts to merge them?

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