• Kyodo News

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The choking death last week of a schoolboy in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, has spotlighted a little-known fact in Japan: More than 4,000 people choke to death on food every year.

During lunch on Oct. 17 at the city-run Minedai Elementary School, the six-grader choked to death after he took a bite from a round piece of bread about 10 cm in diameter and then broke the rest in half and stuffed it in his mouth. Some reports said he was showing off. Efforts by his classmates, his teacher and an ambulance crew weren’t enough to save him.

According to data compiled by the health ministry, 4,407 people died by choking in 2006. By age, about 85 percent were over 65. Only one that year was in the 10-to-14 age group.

By type of food, “mochi” pounded rice was the top culprit, followed by rice, bread and “okayu” rice porridge.

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