Poilce and fire department in Japan are warning people to be careful while eating mochi rice cakes. The dish with which the Japanese welcome the New Year can result in death.
Mochi, the rice cake, is made of sticky glutinous rice. If not chewed properly, it can get stuck in the throat and cause suffocation and even death.
Six people were rushed to hospitals in Tokyo after choking on mochi cakes on New Year’s day, three of them showing no vital signs. Emergency services transported a man in his 70s to a hospital in a state of cardiac arrest after he choked on the cake.
20 people were rushed to hospitals in Tokyo in 2017 after choking on mochi, two of whom died.
2015 was a particularly bad year when nine people died and 128 were hospitalised.
The fire department advises people to cut mochi cakes into smaller bite-size pieces so that they can be chewed more thoroughly, thus preventing the risk of suffocation. Many families keep a vacuum cleaner handy to suck out mochi stuck in the throat. Children and the elderly are more susceptible to choking on mochi.
Mochi is prepared through a rice-pounding ceremony in which soaked and then cooked rice is pounded in traditional mortars and can be mixed with several ingredients. Mochi can be eaten as a standalone dish or used in preparing other dishes.