Ahead of Setsubun on Wednesday, the day to celebrate the beginning of spring, the Consumer Affairs Agency has warned parents to guard against small children accidentally swallowing soybeans.
People customarily throw and eat roasted soybeans on Setsubun to drive away evil spirits and invite good fortune.
However, the agency said over the past five years more than 20 cases of complications from children swallowing the beans were reported by medical institutions nationwide.
Agency officials said children aged under 3 should avoid putting the dry soybeans in their mouth, as their swallowing skills are underdeveloped and small foods such as beans and nuts can get into their respiratory tracts, possibly choking them.
The agency said among the reported cases, a 1-year-old child accidentally swallowed a bean and had to be put under general anesthesia to remove it from a bronchus.
In another case, a fragment of a peanut was found in the bronchus of a 2-year-old child who was hospitalized with symptoms of pneumonia.