You would think that something as sweet as mochi could not be a health hazard but every New Year, when the glutinous cakes are very much in demand, several people, mostly elderly, die when they become stuck in their throats. A medical firm from Osaka and several confectioners have come up with a new variation of mochi that would be safe.
Fukunao Medical Foods said that they are producing easy-to-swallow mochi rice cakes, set to be released this New Year but available for pre-order already. Meanwhile, five traditional confectioners in Kyoto are advertising that their “safe” mochi has an enzyme that makes it easier to chew and less sticky but still retains its starchy taste and quality. They’ve already had tasting sessions this year, and the feedback has been mostly positive. One of the firms says that the flavor of the sticky rice is still there but without the firmness, which is always one of the causes of death for those who eat mochi.
In 2012, two deaths were attributed to choking on mochi and 15 more people were hospitalized. 2011 saw eight deaths and 18 injuries, while between 2006-2009, 18 people in Tokyo died from mochi-choking incidents. Japan’s food safety commission named the sticky rice cakes as one of the top causes of food-related choking cases in 2010 and more than 80% of the victims were senior citizens. The mochi trade association says that Japanese people consume 1 kg of mochi every year, mostly during the first week of January. Emergency services remind people each year to cut them into bite-sized pieces before eating them, to chew properly before trying to swallow and to not eat them when alone, specifically the elderly.
[ via The Guardian ]
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