Beware the dangers of mochi

I stumbled upon the potentially dangerous food category on Wikipedia and I have learned a lot. Most of the list entries made sense: raw meat, money brains, a fungus that resembles a brain, and other creepy consumables. But one potentially dangerous food jumped off the list: mochi.

It's a trendy rice cake that originated in Japan, and in the US, ice-cream-filled mochi occupies endcaps at grocery stores like Whole Foods. Its consistency is spongy, gel-like, and interesting.

Trader Joe's sells mochi cake mix, and some bakers put it in brownies for chewiness. NYT cooking recently released a butter mochi recipe inspired by Hawaiian cooking. In Japan, it makes up the crust in a special Domino's pizza. A strangely transfixing mochi cooking tutorial did numbers on Reddit a few months ago, and the searches for "mochi" have steadily increased in the past five or so years.

Google trends for "mochi" since 2004

But the dessert is not for everyone! In 2018, the BBC ran a headline "Delicious but deadly mochi: The Japanese rice cakes that kill." The "cute round buns" require laborious chewing, and can be a choking hazard for children and the elderly. To avoid complications, the article suggests eaters "chew, chew, chew" or cut them into smaller pieces.

The actual dangers of mochi exist, but the risks are slim. According to the BBC, "At the turn of 2014 to 2015, the number of casualties peaked at nine. In 2016 it was one, while last year two people died."