Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Video: Japan Created Easy-To-Swallow Foods To Prevent Senior Choking Deaths

Japan has the world's highest number of people age 65 and older. And a growing number of elderly people there are dying in accidental choking deaths. For the past 10 years, according to Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the vast majority of those deaths have been senior citizens.

Mochi — a sticky rice cake eaten at the new year — and apples present the worst choking hazards to Japan's seniors.

To help prevent these unnecessary tragedies, Japan's food industry has created "Engay" foods, which are specialized for elderly people.

These pureed, reshaped foods include anything you can imagine. After pureeing an original food product — say, grilled salmon — the puree is combined with a gelling agent. Then it's molded into the original appearance of the food — in the case of salmon, with fake grill marks and everything.

So far, these products are the domain of hospitals and nursing homes and cost slightly more than regular food. But with a fast-aging population, it's considered the food of Japan's future.

See how these delicacies are made (and whether they're any good) in this episode of Elise Tries.

Watch all of Elise Tries on YouTube.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit

Elise Hu is a host-at-large based at NPR West in Culver City, Calif. Previously, she explored the future with her video series, Future You with Elise Hu, and served as the founding bureau chief and International Correspondent for NPR's Seoul office. She was based in Seoul for nearly four years, responsible for the network's coverage of both Koreas and Japan, and filed from a dozen countries across Asia.