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Don't Serve Chips to Babies?

Jim Leff Aug 13, 2009 06:37 PM

I was in a Mexican restaurant today, and there was a sign up, in spanish, reading "please don't feed chips to kids under 3 years of age".

My mind immediately darted through several hypotheses, all of which quickly fizzled. Any theories?

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  1. alanbarnes RE: Jim Leff Aug 13, 2009 06:42 PM

    They're a choke hazard.

    1 Reply
    1. re: alanbarnes
      Jim Leff RE: alanbarnes Aug 13, 2009 08:35 PM

      Alan, yup, that makes sense. Not sure why I didn't think of it...

    2. thew RE: Jim Leff Aug 13, 2009 07:02 PM

      seems amazingly ridiculous to me

      21 Replies
      1. re: thew
        c oliver RE: thew Aug 13, 2009 07:19 PM

        Ridiculous that the restaurant said it or ridiculous that the OP asked? If the former, why is it ridiculous? BTW, love your baked polenta ::)

        1. re: c oliver
          thew RE: c oliver Aug 14, 2009 06:05 AM

          the former. because kids under 3 are quite capable of eating a chip without choking, that's why.

          1. re: thew
            ddelicious RE: thew Aug 14, 2009 06:22 AM

            probably they had an incident or two and decided to be extra cautious. or, maybe the under 3s were throwing chip crumbs all over the floor?

            1. re: thew
              Beau711 RE: thew Aug 14, 2009 07:14 AM

              Chips are usually eaten with a dip. Most kids under 3 wouldn't like hot salsa sauce or another flavored dip. To eat a chip dry does present a choking hazard for a 3 year old plus chips aren't very healthy eating to start with.

              1. re: Beau711
                tzurriz RE: Beau711 Aug 14, 2009 07:43 AM

                My 19 month old loves chips and salsa. Seriously. She chews them up just fine, no choking hazard at all, and loves to dip them in salsa. We pour a small amount of salsa onto a plate for her and let her dip to her hearts content. Her clothes get a bit messy (but that's what bibs are for) and we make sure to wipe up the area frequently.

                Bear in mind, we are regulars at the restaurant. We generally go on the weekends, around 2 p.m. when things are slow, and the staff all know us all by name. I'm not letting my kids run amock or anything.

                There is no reason a toddler shouldn't be able to eat chips.

                1. re: tzurriz
                  meinNYC RE: tzurriz Aug 14, 2009 08:18 AM

                  There are lawyers involved here, if a kid chokes on a chip they are covering the liability. Same reason an electric appliance like a hairdryer says do not use under water and plastic boxes have warnings not to let a kid play in them.
                  It is a choking possiblity, but then so is food like grapes or hotdogs bites and especially balloons.

                  1. re: meinNYC
                    ML8000 RE: meinNYC Aug 16, 2009 02:04 AM

                    I think the sign is up because already happened with legal involvement and they don't want to ever go there again.

                    For kids it's not only a sizable chunk of food that can be a problem but also something with a sharp edge. Gag reflex, etc.

                  2. re: tzurriz
                    lgss RE: tzurriz Aug 15, 2009 04:32 PM

                    An image of fake IDs for toddlers who like and can safely eat chips popped into my mind just after the thought that the sign probably went up after a choking incident.

                    1. re: lgss
                      DishDelish RE: lgss Aug 15, 2009 05:54 PM

                      lol. =)

                      1. re: lgss
                        Jim Leff RE: lgss Aug 16, 2009 09:09 AM

                        What bugs me is that toddlers keep coming over to my table and asking me to score some chips for them.

                        I mean, I'd like to help, but my hands are tied....

                        1. re: Jim Leff
                          jeanmarieok RE: Jim Leff Aug 17, 2009 01:05 PM

                          LOL!!! I like your sense of humor!!

                          1. re: Jim Leff
                            Striver RE: Jim Leff Aug 18, 2009 10:20 AM

                            Ah, today's kids! Y'know they start off with chips and before you turn around, they're wearing mittens to hide their neon orange hands and mask the tell-tale aroma of cheez (TM).

                            1. re: Striver
                              Jim Leff RE: Striver Aug 18, 2009 03:40 PM

                              Tortilla chips are a gateway snack.

                              1. re: Jim Leff
                                alanbarnes RE: Jim Leff Aug 18, 2009 03:54 PM

                                "Betcha can't eat just one."

                                After that ad campaign it would be hard for the President of Frito-Lay to stand up in front of Congress and swear that his products are not addictive.

                    2. re: thew
                      alanbarnes RE: thew Aug 14, 2009 08:30 AM

                      Babies and toddlers don't have molars yet, and their airways are narrower than older kids.' In addition, they often try to swallow largish chunks of food - hey, they're just learning how to eat. So it's a pretty well-accepted rule of thumb not to offer chips, pretzels, nuts, etc. before the age of three.

                      Sure, it's unlikely to cause a problem on any given occasion, and it's ultimately up to the parents to make the decision. But the risk is real, and there's no harm in a restaurant pointing it out.

                      1. re: alanbarnes
                        susancinsf RE: alanbarnes Aug 16, 2009 07:17 AM

                        my sixteen month old granddaughter has her molars. and loves anything she can dip in anything else, including salsa, not that the salsa at most of the Mexican restaurants around my town is anything approaching truly spicy (sigh).

                        I've never seen a sign telling parents not to feed babies bits of hot dogs, and I believe a quick look through any children's care book will tell you they are one of the bigger choking risks.

                        nuts are often discouraged before the age of three for another reason altogether (allergies).

                        1. re: susancinsf
                          Servorg RE: susancinsf Aug 17, 2009 04:02 AM

                          "my sixteen month old granddaughter has her molars and loves anything she can dip in anything else, including salsa"

                          ...next up for your granddaughter's molars, moles!...(if it weren't for those darn ground nuts) ;-D>

                          1. re: susancinsf
                            alanbarnes RE: susancinsf Aug 17, 2009 07:17 AM

                            The first true molar comes in around age 6 or so. The teeth behind a toddler's canines are bicuspids.

                            1. re: alanbarnes
                              Servorg RE: alanbarnes Aug 17, 2009 07:23 AM

                              Alan, thank goodness you didn't chime in until now. What would I have been able to do with bicuspids? Bicarbonate just isn't appetizing! ;-D>

                              1. re: alanbarnes
                                susancinsf RE: alanbarnes Aug 17, 2009 11:11 AM

                                true, the first molars are baby teeth: the ones at age six or so are the adult ones that don't fall out...of course, not necessary to wait for the adult molars to deal with chips...

                                though I must say, I mentioned this discussion to my daughter today, and she told me that chips were problematic for WCG (World's Cutest Granddaughter) until she got those molars (or baby molars, or bicuspids, or whatever you call them).

                                However, while I of course think WCG is superior and early in her development in every respect :-), if the goal is to avoid choking three does seem to be later than necessary, nor does a limitation to one particular food make sense, since every child is different.

                              2. re: susancinsf
                                julesrules RE: susancinsf Aug 17, 2009 11:36 AM

                                Tortilla chips (with salsa) and pretzels (small alphabet whole grain ones) are both served at my daughter's day care, to kids 18 months and up. My daughter happily ate salsa till about age 2.5 when she decided she didn't like it for whatever mysterious toddler reason.
                                Nuts are banned from the daycare. But for parents choosing foods at home, the current general recommendation is to avoid them until 1 year, I believe, unless you have a family history of nut allergies. Some recent thinking is that it would be a mistake to wait until 3, that early exposure to potential allergens may actually be better. Nuts are also considered to be a choking hazard by some. I'm not aware of any food where the geenral recommended age is as late as 3. Grapes, hot dogs etc can all be cut to reduce the risk.

                      2. d
                        danieljdwyer RE: Jim Leff Aug 14, 2009 02:02 PM

                        I assume we're talking tortilla chips, in which case the choking hazard is substantially less than the risk of lacerating the roof of the mouth in toddlers. Children under the age of three are incredibly uncoordinated. It takes years for the brain to learn to coordinate the jaw muscles, lips, and tongue - I know I bit my tongue and gums a lot as a kid, and haven't done so since (at least not while sober). If you put a good sized chunk of tortilla chip, which have very sharp edges when cracked, on the tongue of someone who hasn't really figured out how to chew, they might close their mouth rather fast, driving a sharp edge into the soft palate.
                        It's not really a big deal when this happens, but the soft palate bleeds a lot. Adults get very upset when they see a toddler crying hysterically and coughing out profuse amounts of bloody saliva. It wouldn't suprise me - and I've seen stories of this with other non-choking incidents - if a panicked adult tried to perform the Heimlich and injured the kid in the process. The Heimlich is a great way to crush a kid's ribs.
                        In any case, it's an overly cautious warning. I've seen a couple kids cut their mouths on crunchy foods. They chew more carefully now.

                        1. m
                          mpjmph RE: Jim Leff Aug 14, 2009 03:05 PM

                          My initial thought is the choking hazard, but a toddler can choke on lots of things. Does the restaurant also refuse to serve toddlers dishes than contain meat, which the tot's parents might not cut up into small enough pieces?

                          After thinking about it some though, I wonder if the policy is related to young children not being "full paying customers"? Children that young often get free meals w/ adult purchase, just eat a bit of their parents' plates, or don't eat the restaurant's food at all. Maybe the restaurant uses the policy to keep families from filling little ones with free chips so they'll order more food.

                          1. d
                            DishDelish RE: Jim Leff Aug 14, 2009 08:24 PM

                            My 2 year old loves chips, she has been eating them since at least 18 months or so and loves spicy foods. I think you just need to be careful and stay with your children when they are eating. The restaurant should say they don't recommend it maybe, but I don't think it should be required.

                            1. Sam Fujisaka RE: Jim Leff Aug 15, 2009 06:17 PM

                              What did the restaurant people say when you asked them for the reason?

                              1. s
                                silvergirl RE: Jim Leff Aug 16, 2009 11:01 AM

                                My question is, why was the sign in Spanish?

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: silvergirl
                                  Jim Leff RE: silvergirl Aug 16, 2009 06:02 PM

                                  No American clientele at this place.

                                  1. re: Jim Leff
                                    Sam Fujisaka RE: Jim Leff Aug 17, 2009 05:34 AM

                                    So, I guess you didn't ask the restaurant people?

                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                      Jim Leff RE: Sam Fujisaka Aug 17, 2009 09:31 AM

                                      You don't miss a thing!

                                      1. re: Jim Leff
                                        Sam Fujisaka RE: Jim Leff Aug 19, 2009 07:29 AM

                                        Over the decades in the field, other researchers would often see or hear about something that farmers were doing and would then start to speculate as to why. I would always say, "Ask trhe farmer!". I got many fellow researchers to ask more of farmers - for the knowldege and reasons underlying practicces. The reasons almost always made good agronomic sense and where often not what the researchers had speculated.

                                        Similarly, why ask a bunch of Hounds to speculate when you could've just asked why in the restaurant?

                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                          alanbarnes RE: Sam Fujisaka Aug 19, 2009 07:51 AM

                                          C'mon, Sam, that would lead to a single answer that's (a) succinct and (b) correct (at least as to the motive for putting up the sign, if not necessarily as to the underlying reasoning).

                                          It's far more entertaining to have a couple of dozen people chiming in, disagreeing with each other, and making silly comments.

                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                            Jim Leff RE: Sam Fujisaka Aug 19, 2009 10:55 AM

                                            Because it was a rough and unaccommodating place where I had more important aims - i.e. to psyche out the best thing to order, and to make sure the glassy-eyed waiter got my order right.

                                            Said glassy-eyed waiter didn't seem very chatty.

                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                              Jim Leff RE: Sam Fujisaka Aug 19, 2009 11:36 AM

                                              I don't think it was chips the waiter was smokin', fwiw....

                                  2. Quine RE: Jim Leff Aug 17, 2009 06:03 AM

                                    first, let me reference this link for folks:


                                    Accidents happen. Accidents happen even when people know better. Accidents happen when people think they know better. Accidents can kill. What's a little warning sign in a restaurant compared to that?
                                    Maybe it is posted for legal reasons, maybe because a choking occurred.

                                    I do not have children, but friends do. One incident: we always Sunday brunched together. The place had great food, wonderful service and they were over the top child friendly. Total win situation. And to make it better, they had amazing bagels, in Boston, that is rare. Now the dear darling baby was teething. We found that giving her a bagel was great, she could not get her mouth open wide enough to get a good bite and it was soft but resistant, She could chomp and worry her way on one bagel for our entire brunch.
                                    Great huh? Until she finally got a good bite and suddenly we had a choking baby!
                                    I NEVER want to relive that.
                                    Personally, I have choked on a chip. it wasn't fun either.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Quine
                                      susancinsf RE: Quine Aug 17, 2009 11:31 AM

                                      If it is posted for legal reasons, not sure the restaurant got good advice before taking that step. What if the baby chokes on some OTHER ingredient or food that the parents weren't warned about? (and as your linked article points out, any number of foods can be a choking hazard). Or what if someone does wander in who doesn't speak Spanish and thus doesn't understand the sign? (particularly if the restaurant in question is in a country where overall Spanish is not the first language, regardless of what most patrons speak).

                                      If you are going to need to post a sign because accidents happen, then your entire wall will need to be posted with signs. A baby choking on a chip may be a hazard, but it certainly is FAR from being the only potential hazard in a restaurant.

                                      Signs are not the answer, IMO. Parents need to learn infant/toddler CPR and the Heimlich manuever. (t should be a standard part of well baby care, not that it is, or not that we even have guarenteed well baby care, but that is another story...) and if the restaurant is truly concerned, perhaps it should teach those skills to all staff, and do update training, as well.

                                      At the very least, if choking is the motivation for the sign, adding a sentence saying "they could choke on them" would make sense. Otherwise, one is left to wonder, as Jim did.

                                      Indeed, the most cynical among us might even wonder that while choking hazard may be the purported motivation but the true motivation isn't to reduce chip consumption or messes (as speculated here). I am not sure I am that cynical, but I do know that when I see those signs in hotels saying they only wash the sheets every three nights because of environmental concerns, I always think to myself: "Yeah RIGHT, like you would still do it if it cost more and didn't save you two thirds of your laundry costs." Some might even think a similar motivation is in play here.

                                      1. re: susancinsf
                                        chowser RE: susancinsf Aug 18, 2009 02:55 PM

                                        I'm wondering if a child did choke on a chip there and hence the sign. If it happens again, someone could sue and say the restaurant could have warned them because there was precedence of it happening.

                                      2. re: Quine
                                        tall sarah RE: Quine Oct 31, 2009 05:47 AM

                                        Off topic, but a very important question... where in Boston served the great bagels?

                                      3. a
                                        Allice98 RE: Jim Leff Aug 18, 2009 11:39 AM

                                        My two cents: it's because chips are messy! I have seen so many crushed chips around small children. They get thrown, dropped, crunched, mashed and unfortunately so many parents will not clean up after their children but seem tot hink that it is the job of the servers/restaurant.

                                        I see that is being the chips are banned - not so much safety. Although you can certainly slip on a dropped chip if you are walking by....

                                        1. im_nomad RE: Jim Leff Aug 18, 2009 02:11 PM


                                          maybe they'd read something like that....chips are referenced there. I'm thinking it may have been spurred by some incident though.

                                          my first thought was how they could be the same as those teething biscuits that I thought weren't really recommended anymore (or some brands), due to the fact that the child would just suck on it until a large chunk would come off, and was a choking hazard. I wondered if the same thing can happen with a chip.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: im_nomad
                                            DishDelish RE: im_nomad Aug 18, 2009 02:31 PM

                                            Usually the bit that comes off is pretty soggy though, and disintegrates. My daughter hated those though.
                                            I think like with any food, parents just need to watch their young ones closely when they are eating. After all, the food that people (adults included) choke on and die from most is actually egg yolks. I always concentrate more on the chewing of my yolks after finding this out.

                                          2. joypirate RE: Jim Leff Oct 29, 2009 12:54 PM

                                            peanut allergies? (fried in peanut oil could do it)

                                            1. m
                                              mandycat RE: Jim Leff Oct 31, 2009 11:01 AM

                                              I'm voting with the restaurant but only because I choked on a chip once myself, when I was slightly older than 3 times 20. That jagged edge caught in your throat is extremely painful and frightening. I had a glass of water and a beer handy and it still took what seemed like an eternity to soften and dislodge it. A toddler might not be able to convey to you what was wrong.

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