Disclaimer: I’m not writing this blog post to start a debate on the environment, my own parenting skills or to discourage people from drinking bottled water. I’m writing this to make parents aware of a very serious choking hazard and explain why I believe choking hazard labels should be on products, especially water bottles that contain a tamper evident band or security ring.
Update: I did reach out to Ozarka about this incident and they were extremely caring and concerned. They will be inspecting this bottle and tamper evident band/safety ring as well as other bottles in the same package. We are working together to find out why this happened and how future choking incidents can be prevented.
As a mom of a 2-year-old I am on high alert when it comes to choking hazards. As a baby, my son was always trying to get his hands on water bottles. I remember removing the cap of a water bottle and plastic ring around the top more times than I can count. I also remember thinking to myself is this really necessary for me to remove? I only thought this because I would often have to pry the ring off with my finger nails or use scissors. So you can imagine how shocked and panicked I was when my son started choking on one that fell off in his mouth when he took a sip of water.
This terrifying situation happened in less than 5 seconds. I walked into to the kitchen and grabbed the milk out of refrigerator. My son was following closely behind shouting “Milk, Milk, Please!” In the very short amount of time it took me to get the milk out and pour it (only seconds) he grabbed my open water bottle off the counter and took a drink. When I turned around to hand him his milk he was holding my water bottle, gagging and drooling. Immediately, I could tell he was starting to choke but I couldn’t tell what he was choking on. When I went to reach for him, he struggled to pull this plastic ring out of his mouth.
I’m thankful he is okay and realize we got lucky. I also realize the outcome could have been different. What if he continued choking or even swallowed this piece of plastic? This leads me to me to my next question. Why are manufacturers and companies only listing choking hazard warnings for bottle caps? These security rings should be included too.
Over the course of the last several years, manufacturing companies have been reducing the plastic in bottles and caps, making packaging lighter and more environmentally friendly. I’m afraid this move is compromising the safety of children and even adults who drink their products.
This statement is listed on Ozarka’s website under Cap Safety Information.
“Over the course of the last several years, we have been reducing the plastic in our bottles and caps, making our packaging lighter and more environmentally friendly. The cap on our 12 ounce, 16 ounce, 20 ounce, 700mL, .5 Liter, 1 Liter, and 1.5 Liter products has the least amount of plastic, with the cap for these size products smaller than other caps. In light of that, we have applied the following label statement:
- WARNING: Cap is a small part and poses a CHOKING HAZARD, particularly for children.
Consumers should be advised that small parts, including our caps, should not be put in the mouth. Additionally, caps should always be replaced securely on bottles when not in use or discarded promptly.
Ozarka® Brand Natural Spring Water provides consumers of all ages with a variety of healthful, on-the-go beverage options to enjoy any time of day. The safety and quality of our bottled water products are our top priorities. We regularly conduct tests on all of our bottles and our waters for safety, quality and performance.”
I appreciate that Ozarka includes a choking hazard label on their bottle and in this statement on their website regarding the bottle cap, but something more needs to be done to make it very clear that a tamper evident band or a safety ring is a choking hazard too! I’m also not sure that I agree this product in it’s current packaging is “safe for consumers of all ages.”
I hope by sharing this story that parents will be aware of the dangers and choking risks associated with tamper evident bands and safety rings. I also hope we can start a respectful and productive conversation to help find a solution to this problem.