Japan’s traditional New Year’s Eve mochi snack has reportedly killed at least nine people and hospitalized more than a hundred more this year.
Mochi is a chewy snack made of glutinous rice pounded into a paste and pressed into shapes or served as chewy little balls. It’s very popular wrapped around little balls of ice cream, and it’s traditionally eaten to celebrate the new year, but it is very sticky and chewy and as a result can pose a serious choking hazard. According to Rocket News 24, mochi causes more choking deaths in Japan than any other food, and this year at least nine people have already died from choking on New Year’s mochi, and 128 others were hospitalized.
Elderly people are the most common mochi victims, even though warnings about the dangers of choking on mochi are widespread throughout Japan, especially around the new year.
The fire department in Tokyo, where three of this year’s mochi deaths occurred, has been urging people to cut mochi into small pieces before eating it, and advising people to pay close attention whenever old people or children partake.