Elderly urged to exercise caution when consuming mochi due to potential choking hazard

The National Police Agency and the Fire and Disaster Management Agency have issued a joint advisory, warning elderly individuals to exercise caution when consuming mochi rice cakes this upcoming New Year holiday season. The traditional treat, which is often enjoyed during this time of year, has been known to pose a choking hazard, particularly for the elderly population.

According to statistics provided by the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, mochi-related incidents were responsible for 15 deaths and 95 injuries in 2020. The majority of these cases involved individuals over the age of 65, highlighting the need for increased awareness and precaution among this demographic.

Mochi rice cakes are a sticky, chewy delicacy made from pounded glutinous rice. They are often served in soup or grilled until they become crispy on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside. However, their dense and sticky texture can make them difficult to swallow, especially for those with dentures or swallowing difficulties.

As a result, officials are urging elderly individuals to take extra care when enjoying mochi. Recommendations include cutting the rice cakes into small, manageable pieces, chewing them thoroughly, and drinking plenty of water to aid in the swallowing process. It is also advised that individuals with dentures or trouble swallowing avoid consuming mochi altogether.

In addition to the risk of choking, mochi-related incidents can also lead to emergency calls and hospital visits during the holiday season. The National Police Agency has reported an increase in emergency calls related to mochi consumption during the New Year period, with many cases requiring medical attention to dislodge the sticky rice cakes from the throat.

To prevent such incidents from occurring, both agencies are working to raise awareness through public service announcements and educational campaigns. These efforts aim to inform the public about the potential dangers of mochi consumption and the necessary precautions that should be taken, particularly among the elderly population.

In the meantime, local community centers and senior care facilities are also being encouraged to provide information and support to elderly individuals during the holiday season. This may include organizing workshops on safe mochi consumption, distributing informational pamphlets, and raising awareness among caregivers and family members.

Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that everyone can safely enjoy the traditions and festivities of the New Year without putting themselves at risk. By taking simple precautions and staying informed, individuals can continue to partake in the time-honored tradition of mochi consumption while prioritizing their health and well-being. It is hoped that these efforts will lead to a reduction in mochi-related incidents and a safer holiday season for all.


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