The Food Standards Agency is today advising that children should not eat certain mini cup fruit jelly products that contain Konjac because of the risk of choking on the sweets. The Agency is acting, together with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), to highlight the dangers and to seek their removal from sale. The products are imported from Asia and have been linked to a number of deaths from choking around the world. No such cases have been reported in the UK.
The Agency was alerted to this issue in August, at which point preliminary advice on the risk was issued. Since then, the Agency has assessed the extent of the risk, with advice, evidence and information from the Department of Health, DTI and other countries where action is being taken as well.
Suzi Leather, deputy chair of the Food Standards Agency, said:
“The weight of evidence clearly indicates that these products present a risk to children. They should be removed from the market immediately. However, these sweets are on sale in many small corner shops and it may not be easy to ensure that they are all removed from shelves straightaway. So we want to alert parents to the potential risk and be very clear: these sweets are to be avoided and children should not buy or eat them.”
The sweets have a number of different brand names including:
ABC Mini Fruit Bites
New Choice Mini Fruit Gels
Rolin Mango Jelly Cup
Pictures of brands known by the Agency to be on sale in the UK are available on the Agency website at www.food.gov.uk. Other brands may also be on sale. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency website (www.inspection.gc.ca) has a comprehensive list of products on sale in Canada, although not all of these may be available in the UK.
The jellies are contained in cups about the size of individual mini pots of milk or coffee creamer. They are dome-shaped with a diameter of about 3 cm tapering to 2 cm. They have a rounded edge and are sealed with a foil lid. The sweets are sold in various package sizes (eg bags, plastic jars) or individually. Some packets may be labelled with precautionary advice.
Children tend to suck out and effectively ‘inhale’ the sweet, which contains a soft, slippery type jelly with a hard, fruit flavoured gum at the centre. This increases the risk of choking. The jellies contain a particular ingredient, konjac, which does not dissolve easily and could stay stuck in the throat.