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"Read the labels!': Dad makes plea after daughter choked on snack food

A Canadian dad's Facebook post went viral after a choking incident occurred while his infant daughter was eating Gerber cheese puffs.
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

It's an accident every parent fears: your baby, while snacking on finger foods, begins to turn blue, choking and gasping for air. But, as one Canadian dad learned recently, an important way to keep baby safe from choking is to pay attention to the warnings on baby food labels.

Justin Morrice posted to Facebook last week after his own daughter, Annabelle, began choking in her high chair while eating Gerber Lil' Crunchies, a cheese puff designed for babies who have have reached the developmental milestone of crawling.

"Just a reminder...please always read the labels on the foods we feed them," Morrice wrote in the post. Morrice described the terrifying incident in which his daughter began to choke when one of the cheese puffs lodged in her throat.

"After scanning the can my mom found this 'warning' in tiny letters on their side to throw contents out after five days of breaking the seal," Morrice continued. "I opened a new container and I could not believe the difference. The ones in the can she choked on I can only describe to be like a foam ear plug. I could squish it but it would expand back out and would not break apart. The ones in the new can crumbled with ease."

RELATED: Some 'first finger foods' for baby are a choking hazard, study finds recently reported on a study, conducted by Cohen Children's Medical Center, which indicated that while the Gerber puffs did dissolve quickly, they did not fully meet the American Academy of Pediatrics' safety guidelines.

Dr. Ruth Milanaik, a co-author of the study, told TODAY that most snacks designed for infants become choking hazards if not eaten within an hour.

"I am not saying these are not good products, and fresh out of the box they are delicious,” said Milanaik. “But we need to be more responsible and in real life, babies don’t eat them fresh out of the bag.”

Morrice accepted full responsibility for the incident in his post, saying he did not blame Gerber, and encouraging parents to scan all warning and expiration labels on the foods they feed their children.

RELATED: Top 6 finger foods that are safe and delicious for infants

"So many products post warning labels but unless you scan the product you can get 'lazy' as parents and it becomes routine," Morrice cautioned. "So again this is just a warning to all the labels!"

A spokesperson from Gerber assured TODAY Parents that the safety of the infants and children who consume their products is their top priority, adding that the company plans to use this customer feedback in their ongoing processes of designing products, labels and milestone guidelines.

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"Gerber products feature a milestone symbol on packages that help guide parents to the foods their child may be ready for based on developmental milestones rather than age...our team of internal and external experts evaluate and test our foods to determine the applicable milestone," the spokesperson explained. "We are sorry to hear of this parent’s experience and we commend him for sharing with other parents to emphasize the importance of supervising children while eating and reading product labels."