4 die after choking on 'mochi;' at least 10 hospitalized

TOKYO —

The National Police Agency and Fire and Disaster Management Agency said Thursday that four people had died after choking on “mochi” rice cakes.

Furthermore, 10 people in Tokyo were hospitalized on Wednesday after choking on “mochi.” Of the 10, nine were over 65, and two remain in a coma.

TV Asahi reported that the fatalities were a man in his 70s in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, a man in his 80s in Minami-Soma, Fukushima, an 85-year-old man in Shimotsuke, Tochigi Prefecture, and an 85-year-old woman in Nasushiobara, Tochigi Prefecture.

The agency said it is still collating figures for the whole of Japan.

On Monday, authorities had issued an appeal to elderly people to be careful when eating “mochi” during the New Year holidays.

The cakes, a traditional New Year’s food, cause choking incidents among elderly people every year. Authorities appealed to people across Japan to cut up their “mochi” into small chunks and to eat it with great care, and in the presence of someone else.

Japan Today

  • 14

    SenseNotSoCommon

    Need a bigger mochi alert budget.

  • 1

    AKBfan

    As i said, they should be far more serious about alerting everyone to the dangers of eating everything. I think every pack of mochi should have a little electronic chip in that squeals about the dangers when opened. Tragic that so many of our old folk are taken from us when they have so many more productive and worthwhile years to live..

  • -6

    K2015

    This time every year, we hear the news of people choking when eating mochi. Since when?

  • 3

    Disillusioned

    How should one react to this news? It happens every year! Last year Mochi killed 11 people at New Year's. Sorry, but all I can do is laugh at the idiocy of it. Every year a dozen or so people are killed, but they keep eating huge choking globs of it. It's just idiotic!

  • 4

    Mirai Hayashi

    Every fricken year. What a sad way to go.

  • 3

    BurakuminDes

    The authorities did everything they could to warn the public of the extreme risks of this "food". Short of the central govt. banning sales of mochi to over 60s (and the oldies would likely bypass the ban by getting "youngsters" under 60 to buy them) I don't know what more can be done. RIP, poor old mochi connisseurs.

  • 0

    smithinjapan

    It's so sad that the police agency has to spend so much time collating nation-wide figures of mochi-deaths. Despite it being 'proper etiquette' to each everyone in one gulp here, the stuff needs to be cut up and/or in bites. I'd be interested to know how many of these 10 people were in group homes and got their mochi without being cut up, if any. It should be mandatory, and families should cut them up before serving as well. Sweet lord, what does it take?? RIP people... and I hope those still in hospitable recover and don't do it again next year.

  • 0

    wildwest

    As Japan has recently received UN listing for washoku (Japanese food) It is important to remember dishes like mochi, and fugu are killers. These dishes are not for all and should only be eaten by those who have sufficient understanding of the risks once they have undergone extensive training by the masters and supported by fully trained and equipped medical teams.

  • 4

    Mariam Tebourbi

    Just eat tempura instead RIP

  • 1

    Christopher Smith

    Disillusioned - as your name so aptly states. You might care to extend some compassion instead of making snide remarks. I’m sure if one of your own family members were misfortunate enough to choke on food while eating you certainly wouldn’t laugh at the idiocy of it - would you?

  • 2

    CrazyJoe

    Anyone who's not used to eating mochi, should be cautious. It's a very, very chewy delicacy and some folks try to swallow before chewing it sufficiently, resulting in the new year and everything else coming to an abrupt end. Each year several people usually the very young or very old choke to death eating mochi.

  • -3

    3RENSHO

    "RIP people... and I hope those still in hospitable recover and don't do it again next year."

    What is "hospitable"?

  • 1

    LiveInTokyo

    Mochi probably kills more people per year than fugu, would that be right? For the amount of people that die from mochi each year, maybe the government should encourage people not to eat it? Seriously, you have to warn people to chew their food properly or there is a good chance they might die.

  • -1

    bigfujiyama

    Oh no!

    Why didn't those fools heed our warnings. Don't they read the JT comments?

    It's a rice cake Armageddon.

    We're all going to die.

  • 3

    Himajin

    False teeth don't cut through mochi very well, that's one factor...many older folk don't like to have their food cut up for them. It's too bad. MIL is 88 and has swallowing issues (Lewy Body dementia) and she doesn't get to have mochi, period. We explained and she understood. It's sad, though, when they can't eat what they want.

  • -2

    GW

    Maybe like fugu households should have a LICENSED MOCHI CHEF in the house in order to prepare & make sure no one dies, so they should also be trained in the Heimlich maneuver LOL!!!

  • -6

    Bogi

    And the sad thing is that it's not even that good.

  • 3

    Mirai Hayashi

    They should have mochi for old people. Smaller, more easily soluble so that it melts in the mouth faster..

  • 0

    Disillusioned

    Christopher Smith - My family do eat mochi, including my kids, but I make sure it is served in bite sized pieces. And, as for your comment about compassion, these people are warned every year, yet it still keeps happening. I have no compassion for repeated stupidity. Mochi kills more people than fugu!

  • 0

    Jimizo

    @Mirai Hayashi It is a sad way to go and an utterly pointless one. It is tragic to see people's loved ones dying needlessly when eating a food which in all honesty is pretty bland compared to all of the fine foods out there. It hardly lowers the quality of life of aged people if they refrain from eating a bland rice cake once a year. Exasperating.

  • -1

    ironmonkeyz

    OMG!! They should ban mochi!!

  • -1

    Saul Schimek

    umm...smaller bites of mochi might be a good idea? Just saying?

  • 0

    Abhorsenaube

    If this happened in the US, the government would make it harder to get mochi but the elderly have their ways and it would only hurt those who eat mochi responsibly thus hurting the majority of the industry but not thoe elderly ruffians that deal in the black market mochi.

  • 0

    kwatt

    Most elderly people know such accidents about mochi choking every year. The real problem is they think "I will not be choked to death by such a mochi" . Next new year some people would be choked as same as last year.

  • -1

    anbinh

    How about mochi is only available in 1cm diameter ball in the market . nothing else.

  • 0

    lucabrasi

    Does anybody know if the emperor's allowed to eat mochi?

    I know he's forbidden by law from eating fugu....

  • -2

    Alex Einz

    I see no problem, only someone stupid enough to eat one without cutting it will choke on it.

  • -3

    Aurvakis

    what is 'mochi" cake, is that something like coffee cake here in the states, cause that stuff is dry as hell.

  • 0

    gelendestrasse

    Every new year it's the same old issue....

  • 0

    Mar044

    I guess people didn't follow the advice, I don't love it, but i don't hate it, a shame to happen.

  • 0

    Kittychosen

    Aurvakis: Mochi is made from pounded rice flour and is like marshmallow in consistency. Only stickier and harder to bite. It's in larger chunks served in a soup, so if it starts to slip down it's very hard to stop!

  • 1

    Victoria Maude

    I dislike New Years mochi for this very reason. I remember eating it for the first time when I was about 18, and feeling like I was going to choke. Mochi balls, especially in soup, are too big for safe eating. I like the flavour, but I always feel nervous eating it.

  • 0

    Nessie

    Mochi probably kills more people per year than fugu, would that be right?

    It looks about even, with mochi getting a slight edge.

    wiki

    Statistics from the Tokyo Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health indicate 20 to 44 incidents of fugu poisoning per year between 1996 and 2006 in Japan (a single incident may involve multiple diners). Each year, these incidents led to between 34 and 64 victims being hospitalized and zero to six deaths, an average fatality rate of 6.8%.[13] Of the 23 incidents reported in Tokyo from 1993 through 2006, only one took place in a restaurant. All others involved fishermen eating their catch.[13] Poisonings through amateur preparation can result from confusion between types of puffer, as well as improper methods, and some may represent deliberate suicide attempts. Engelbert Kaempfer, a German physician who resided in Japan in the 1690s, reported that an unusually toxic variety of puffer was sometimes sought out by individuals who wished to take their own lives.[14]

  • 0

    Laguna

    That and konnyaku and Japanese cuisine is pretty lethal to the elderly year round.

  • 1

    Tahoochi

    4 people died out of 130 million. C'mon people, why make such a fuss? More people die from drowning, car accidents, household accidents, and maybe even lightning strikes? ...and please don't tell me "But choking on mochi can be prevented..." because so can all other accidents. Don't spend any more time 'warning' people about mochi, and don't spend any more time criticizing people who die from choking on mochi, because it will happen to at least 5 out of 130 million people in Japan every year whether you warn them or not.

  • -1

    LSpiro

    When your “traditional” New Year’s food is so well known for killing people that they have to issue advisories, maybe it’s time to…not have that traditional food anymore? Tempura or ramen would work just as easily as a traditional New Year’s food. Considering KFC is the traditional Christmas food…

  • 0

    AustPaul

    When I first tried mochi I knew it was bad news.....you can warn people all you like but unfortunately you can't make them stop eating it.

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