Authorities are reminding parents and teachers of the danger of giving children beans and nuts at setsubun events on Feb. 3, warning that it could lead to fatal choking.

The Consumer Affairs Agency warns that children 5 years or younger should not be given hard beans and nuts.

Setsubun is the last day of winter on the lunar calendar, which Japanese celebrate with the traditional ritual of throwing roasted beans at homes, temples and shrines to pray for good luck and drive off evil spirits.

Young children have a higher risk of choking on beans and nuts as they don’t have their full set of teeth, and their ability to chew and swallow is not yet fully developed, according to the agency.

Even if they are crushed into small pieces, beans can still make their way into the lungs, leading to pneumonia and bronchitis, the agency said.

A fatal accident in 2020 prompted authorities to step up measures to prevent choking. A 4-year-old boy died after choking on beans in a setsubun event at a certified child care center in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture.

In the decade from December 2010, the agency and another consumer protection regulator received 31 reports of people 14 or younger choking on or accidentally inhaling beans and nuts.

Of those, one case involved a 2-year-old who coughed for five minutes to dislodge three beans stuck in the throat before spitting pieces covered in blood out.

Another 2-year-old was hospitalized for six days after a piece of almond got stuck in the bronchus when the child was walking around with the almond in the mouth.

To prevent similar accidents, authorities are encouraging adults to use individually wrapped beans and to sweep up any left on the floor after setsubun so that children will not eat them.

Should a bean become stuck in the throat of a child aged 1 or older, give them first aid such as by slapping them on the back as they lean forward and perform CPR if they are unconscious, the Consumer Affairs Agency said.

Call an ambulance or the child health care hotline at #8000 if a child is struggling for breath, turning pale or becoming limp and unresponsive, the agency advised.