Outrage of the Week: “Marshmallow Safety Tips”

Gotta aizishtyrt
thank Amy Bronee, host of the show Real Parenting on C-FAX in Canada for alerting me to this story in the National Post:

Minding your marshmallows

Katherine Dedyna, Canwest News Service  Published: Friday, July 24, 2009

There’s no such thing as being too careful when it comes to kids and camping – even for hyper-vigilant parents. But peril can take unexpected forms – including the seemingly innocuous marshmallow, if improperly handled.

For maximum health and safety, one B.C. doctor offers his wish-list of marshmallow-roasting techniques for 21st-century campfire kids:

1. Apply hand sanitizer before selecting marshmallow.

2. Sterilize the roasting twig by thrusting it in fire.

3. Remove carbon from the twig with a clean tissue.

4. Put a clean marshmallow on the clean twig with the clean hands and roast away.

“And don’t eat too many because one, they’re pure sugar, and two, all of us have burned our mouths on marshmallows,” says Dr. Richard Stanwick, chief medical officer of health for the Vancouver Island Health Authority.

“If there’s a flame coming out of it, it’s probably too hot.”

And I suppose if you apply the flaming marshmallow directly to your hair, that’s not a good idea either? How about the stick? Should one poke it in one’s eye? We do hope to see some more safety tips soon.

The article goes on to discuss a revolutionary device available from MarshmallowChefSticks.com . It’s a stick.

It’s actually more like a paddle until the very end, where it gets pointy, and it’s long enough to keep your kid over 3 feet away from the fire. What’s more, according to the website, this amazing breakthrough, “makes it easy to roast marshmallows.”

At last! ‘Cause I’d been taking classes for years and just never quite got the hang of it.  And to think the stick is just $25.  Get ’em while they’re hot!

(And then wait for them to cool down, of course. Kids: Please wait till your marshmallow has solidified into a tepid mound before applying tongue. )  — Lenore


59 Responses to Outrage of the Week: “Marshmallow Safety Tips”

  1. SheWhoPicksUpToys July 27, 2009 at 7:58 am #

    Please, PLEASE tell me it’s not wide and paddle-shaped because “pointy things are dangerous,” when by definition it has to get pointy at the end anyway to fulfill its function!

    (Picture me banging my head against the keyboard.)

  2. SheWhoPicksUpToys July 27, 2009 at 7:58 am #

    P.S. Your time stamp is 12 hrs. off.

  3. Caroline July 27, 2009 at 8:01 am #

    Hahahahaha this may be, sincerely, the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

    And I’ll go out on a limb (ba-dum-chk!) and say whatever “carbon” or other leafy woody stuff kids may accidentally eat during a marshmallow roast is better for them than food additives. Just a thought.

  4. Rob July 27, 2009 at 8:04 am #

    That’s advertising gold!
    “Personalized Marshmallow Sticks will Light Up Their Lives
    Your Family and Friends Will Be Thanking You For These Marshmallow Sticks For Many Years to Come!”

    And besides – if the marshmallow has a flame you are doing it wrong.

  5. Anna July 27, 2009 at 8:10 am #

    The only dangerous thing I’ve heard about marshmallows was a girl who choked to death when her camp played chubby bunny (contest to see who could stuff the most marshmallows in there mouth). That I would understand but this is ridiculous! Kids are not incompetent. It’s not fireworks or lighter fluid, it’s smores!

  6. Stassja July 27, 2009 at 8:15 am #

    Oh dear lord, I was at least expecting something about it being a choking hazard (my grandma loves to tell the story of grandpa saving a neighbor kid with the heimlich after a marshmallow incident) but this is just silly.

  7. Stassja July 27, 2009 at 8:16 am #

    Rob – And besides – if the marshmallow has a flame you are doing it wrong.

    I just had to say I like mine well-blackened. Lol.

  8. sylvia_rachel July 27, 2009 at 8:16 am #


    Every time I start thinking maybe Canadians are slightly less insane than our neighbours south of 49, something like this happens …

    Rob — when I was young there used to be two schools of marshmallow-roasting: (a) if it’s on fire, you’re doing it wrong; (b) if it’s not on fire, you’re doing it wrong. It’s one of those things (like firm vs. fluffy matzo balls) on which people just have to agree to disagree 😉

  9. Annika July 27, 2009 at 8:17 am #

    All these safety tips have done is make me want s’mores.

  10. Ben July 27, 2009 at 8:18 am #

    And what tragedy befalls the child who pops a too-hot marshmallow in his mouth?

    He’ll say “Ouch! Hot!”

    And then the next time, he’ll wait until his food has cooled a bit.

  11. bushidoka July 27, 2009 at 8:20 am #

    Just a couple of weeks ago my niece’s daughter came very close to dying from “chubby bunny” – definitely something to be cautious of with marshmallows. But yes, these tips are really out there.

  12. Jen July 27, 2009 at 8:28 am #

    Sounds like it’s just a marketing ploy for that marshmallow cooker device. Ridiculous.

  13. kristawhite July 27, 2009 at 8:31 am #

    Ok, I have to speak up here as a Canadian. It appears that everyone (including my fellow Canadian who submitted the article) missed the very thinly veiled Canuck-style sarcasm.

    The point of the article isn’t about the marshmallow, it’s the “but, seriously folks…” bit at the bottom where it talks about CPR and safe drinking water.

    Although the concern about swimmer’s itch is a bit amusing.

  14. natalieushka July 27, 2009 at 8:50 am #

    yep, it was a joke, folks (another Canadian here).

  15. LeAnn July 27, 2009 at 9:10 am #

    But no one mentioned our favorite camping activity… the flaming marshmallow toss. 😉

  16. Kevin R. July 27, 2009 at 9:11 am #

    A theme park enthusiast site has pictures up of something you can do in Europe: cook bread over an open fire.


    The site is a little juvenile but… good pictures.

  17. Erika Jurney July 27, 2009 at 9:16 am #

    1. “Pointy paddle things” at a campfire would be almost instantly converted to Flaming Light Sabers by my boys.

    2. “If there’s a flame coming out of it, it’s probably too hot.” OK, I agree with this point. This is my only rule about roasted marshmallows.

  18. Uly July 27, 2009 at 9:44 am #

    “If there’s a flame coming out of it, it’s probably too hot.”

    I’m hoping he intended to be sarcastic. Please, god, please!

    That’s nothing, though. I bought a bag of mini-marshmallows as a Special Treat for my nieces once. In big letters? NEVER GIVE TO A CHILD UNDER 3. CUT INTO BITE SIZED PIECES BEFORE EATING!

  19. Meadowlark July 27, 2009 at 9:56 am #

    That’s been a running joke in our family for years: The time one of the kids was waving a flaming marshmallow around on the stick and I said “Stop!!! Millions of people die every year from flaming marshmallows.”. All three of them just turned and stared at me.

    I have yet to live that one down. : )

  20. MaeMae July 27, 2009 at 10:03 am #

    I have been cleaning since church let out this afternoon so I needed a big laugh. Thanks, Lenore. I figured this wasn’t completely serious but it was funny. My only comment is…three feet from the fire, really?! Where I’m from it’s cold in the woods at night. We practically sit on the rocks surrounding the fire! Happy roasting!!

  21. Laura July 27, 2009 at 11:00 am #

    My parents had camping forks when I was little, which we used for marshmallows and hot dogs instead of sticks, but that owed quite a lot to convenience (always having something) and a little to knowing their daughter (letting me too near anything hot was always a bit risky – I liked heat too much – as a toddler I backed into a lit woodstove once). Although I did marshmallows on a stick once except I thought the stick part was gross (I was probably six at most, it’s a very vague memory), which may also have played into the forks….

  22. ojn July 27, 2009 at 11:08 am #

    So, getting hand sanitizer on your marshmallow, cooking it and ingesting it is safer than the alternative? Somehow I doubt that.

    What a pile of crap. Holding something in fire normally sterilizes it, marshmallows included (assuming you actually let them get hot).

  23. HeatherJ July 27, 2009 at 11:10 am #

    Ha! Ha! Ha! Now THAT was a good laugh! Seriously though, can you say kill-joy?

  24. AirborneVet July 27, 2009 at 11:16 am #

    I’m tearing up! Can’t. Stop. Laughing.

  25. babelbabe July 27, 2009 at 11:25 am #

    we had marshmallow forks too – and they were METAL. Now who thought THAT was a good idea?

    also, my friend Allie coined the term “flaming ball of molten sugar” last time we roasted marshmallows with our kids, and now the phrase is de rigeur around our campfires. Preferably with marshmallows alight on the end of your stick.

    Lenore – thanks for checking out the review on my blog; I was so excited to see you there. I was all Oooh, ohh, the real live author read my review!!
    Yeah, I don’t get out much….

  26. Kelly July 27, 2009 at 11:40 am #

    Ridiculous! Like others have pointed out here, marshmallows can be a choking hazard, like many other foods, but… come on!

    I am SO glad I read this in time because I’ve been planning to eat a FLAMING marshmallow tonight at our campfire; thank goodness I’m saved!

  27. lonedattyof3 July 27, 2009 at 11:57 am #

    As a pre-teen in the 1950’s who spent entire days and evenings “playing with fire” on the beach in front of my grandparents’ house–usually alone–the only direction I was given was not to use oleander as marshmallow (or hot dog) sticks. Oh, and half of my friends swore that the marshmallow was not edible until it had burst into spectacular flames and eaten as it was dripping off the stick, but I was a bit more conservative.

  28. Randy July 27, 2009 at 12:04 pm #

    It’s amazing our species didn’t die out long ago, having been without these pearls of campfire wisdom. Also worthy of note:

    1. The campfire might be warm and comforting on a chilly night under the stars but do not attempt to sleep in it or eat it.

    2. When walking around the fire be sure to walk upright, perpendicular to the surface of the earth, rather than on clouds or tree trunks. Be mindful of the laws of gravity and physics.

    3. When selecting an appropriate roasting stick avoid the temptation to use animal feces. While they may be brown and roughly cylindrical, painstaking trials have shown them to be ineffective utensils.

    Just follow these simple rules and you too can enjoy an activity that every single one of your ancestors has successfully completed for hundreds of thousands of years. Don’t let them down!

  29. ShortWoman July 27, 2009 at 12:12 pm #

    So let me make sure I have this right. Sterilize your hands before touching the marshmallow, sterilize the stick in the fire, but it’s not good enough to sterilize the outside of the marshmallow in the same fire used to sterilize the stick.

    Never mind the danger of letting the kiddies near the FIRE. That’s just clean family fun as long as you kill all the germs. Dirty filthy disgusting germ-ridden germs.

  30. becky July 27, 2009 at 12:14 pm #

    When I was a young girl at camp, one of the other camper’s marshmallows caught on fire. Instead of blowing it out she waved it around violently making contact with my face. It’s one thing to burn your own mouth with a marshmallow, it’s another to have flaming sugar stuck to your face! ouch!

    Imagine a marshmallow sized burn right next to your mouth! painful!

    However, my biggest worry was not being able to swim with a massive burn on my face! Thankfully, I got to swim and do all the other camp activities for the rest of the week. (I don’t even know if camp called my parents to let them know about the accident.) I was not permanently scarred and I get to tell my scary marshmallow story at every campout.

  31. ebohlman July 27, 2009 at 12:23 pm #

    Randy: You sound like you played with “this as a kid.

  32. KarenW July 27, 2009 at 12:23 pm #

    Wow, TOO funny. I have personally broken every one of their marshmallow rules about a dozen times this summer. Between that and cookie dough, why am I still alive?

  33. ebohlman July 27, 2009 at 12:24 pm #

    AARRGH: Let’s try it again: You sound like you played with this as a kid.

  34. Kacie July 27, 2009 at 12:34 pm #

    OMG and WHAT IF the tissue catches FIRE when you wipe off that horrible carbon?!? LOL!!!!!

  35. Eric Howe July 27, 2009 at 12:39 pm #

    You know, this insane obsession with sterility does have consequences. Not only does it breed bacteria that can resist our antibiotics but we also need varied populations of certain bacteria inside us. Maybe kids need to eat dirt and use dirty unsanitized sticks to roast marshmallows; how else are kids supposed to get the right bacteria in their guts to keep them healthy?

    “Micros ‘R’ Us” has an interesting take on the bacteria issue:

  36. slamdunk July 27, 2009 at 7:06 pm #

    Now that is funny–I sure the part where kids need a safety helmet while roasting was edited out at the last minute.

  37. markymark1980 July 27, 2009 at 7:21 pm #

    Typical of today!
    Thats why we are all getting these illnesses as our immune system can’t handle it, I don’t see the point in wrapping kids up in cotton wool. They need to be out there getting dirty and experiencing things for themselves and learn form their own mistakes (within reason of course, I don’t mean go out and light fires to see what happens!!)

    So get those marshmallows on twigs and burn them up nicely, they won’t taste the same if you use sterilisation!!


  38. Segwyne July 27, 2009 at 9:01 pm #

    A couple of weeks ago, my kids wanted to light candles. Okay, fine. So then they wanted to make the long-promised s’mores on the candles. Okay, fine. I’m not sure what happened (my 13-year-old was in charge of the making) but my almost 3-year-old son got a glob of hot marshmallow right next to his eyebrow. When I pulled the glob off (I was only a few feet away with my back turned doing something else) some skin came off. No biggie. He cried from the momentary pain, then ate his s’more with a bandaid on his eyebrow. My children then proceeded to find all kinds of things to burn in the candles. After a burn spot or two on the table, I got out a baking sheet for them to burn on. An hour later when the pine cone didn’t want to go out and the smoke alarm went off, that is when I told them enough was enough. They had so much fun burning stuff in the candles, I am glad I let them do it. Even if the baby did get a marshmallow burn.

  39. Lisa July 27, 2009 at 9:25 pm #

    Seriously, this should not have been posted now… it’s a month until our camping trip, and I can NOT be thinking about smores yet !

    I “clean” the sticks by whittling the bark off the end where the marshmallow will go… you know, to make a good point to stick it on! I’m actually a little queasy thinking about eating something that tastes like hand sanitizer.

    I figure we “protect” our kids from getting burned by allowing them to be near and eat hot things – that’s how they learn what is safe. Plus, toasting marshmallows (and everything else about camping) is supposed to be FUN, not a scientific activity with a million rules and a “right” way to do it! I didn’t allow my daughter near the campfire when she was 1-2, because she had little to no impulse control. Once she hit the age of being able to reason, I just told her to be careful and not get too close so she wouldn’t get burned. Why ruin everything?!

  40. highlyirritable July 27, 2009 at 9:31 pm #

    I guess then that they’d be horrified if they knew my kids lit the fire, and used a garden rake as a multi pronged marshmallow roaster…

  41. Andrea July 27, 2009 at 9:33 pm #

    My husband and I just got the biggest laugh from this post, which I’m sure wasn’t the good Doctor’s intent. Next we’re going to see protective safety glass with a hole for the stick to go through and individually wrapped marshmallows. Unreal!

  42. eva July 27, 2009 at 10:00 pm #

    Now this made me want to eat roasted marshmallows right now… 😀

  43. Dave July 27, 2009 at 10:17 pm #

    Why didn’t I think of this. We sell water, naps, air and now marshmellow sticks. I could retire at $25 bucks a pop.

  44. SheWhoPicksUpToys July 27, 2009 at 11:19 pm #

    “What a pile of crap. Holding something in fire normally sterilizes it, marshmallows included (assuming you actually let them get hot).”

    Well, in fairness, you’re also going to use those hands to eat the marshmallow, which could allow ingesting germs. And if you’re out in a camping situation, you could have more than a little “normal, healthy” dose of germs on those hands. Especially if they’re little hands that are less careful about where they go.

    But having said all that, all this obsessive hand-sanitizing stuff irks me, too. There are ways to get hands clean enough to eat (a clean bucket of clean water and a towel nearby, for example), and spreading chemical goo on them every half hour strikes me as undesirable, too.

  45. David July 28, 2009 at 1:54 am #

    It amazes me that the article complete ignored the flaming napalm of burning marshmellow on a stick.

  46. lonedattyof3 July 28, 2009 at 4:01 am #


  47. Chris H July 28, 2009 at 6:13 am #

    Brilliant return to the not-so-serious headscratching outrage-of-the-week!


  48. Diane July 28, 2009 at 6:27 am #

    O. M. G. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse. I am speechless.

  49. Bob July 28, 2009 at 6:36 am #

    I’m in love with the author of this blog post.

  50. thejamminjabber July 28, 2009 at 8:00 am #

    that’s just silly. a little dirt never hurt anyone.

  51. Jennie July 28, 2009 at 10:08 pm #

    My poor boy has been wheat intollerant for most of his life, so had not had marshmellows more then a few times until recently when I found some done with corn syrup. YAY! I thought. He was so excited poor boy that he stuffed several of them into his mouth as others were doing with the lollies in front of them at a birthday party I took my newfound treat to. Of course I was horrified when I came back to find them removed, my little boy looking white and hubby telling of choking (no hymlic manouver. the boy has an astonishing gag reflex).

    This boy is 3 and I could trust him not to inhale a flaming marshmellow fresh off a fire, but he just never seems to learn that “don’t stuff your mouth full then swallow without chewing” thing.

    Does this mean marshmellows are the enumy? No way! They might be a darn sight safer when hot and melted with my little fellow.

  52. BMS July 29, 2009 at 1:40 am #

    The biggest danger of s’mores is that the combination of sugar and chocolate cause my children to bounce off the walls for 2 hours. So have those s’mores early in the camping trip if you want to get any sleep.

    And totally – flamed to a crunchy black crisp is the ONLY way to go.

  53. Cat July 29, 2009 at 5:41 am #

    “1. Apply hand sanitizer before selecting marshmallow.”

    Why bother? It’s going to get heat sterilized as soon as you put it in the fire anyway.

    “2. Sterilize the roasting twig by thrusting it in fire.”

    My Mom actually taught me to do this when I was little. Not only does it clean the end of the twig, but it gives the first few marshmallows some extra wood smoke taste.

    “3. Remove carbon from the twig with a clean tissue.”

    Or your fingers, touching a marshmallow doesn’t render them unclean right?

    I’m actually rather surprised they still advocate using sticks, with this quality of tripe you’d expect them to be too scared of kids getting splinters.

  54. GirlThursday July 31, 2009 at 11:27 pm #

    OMG, this has to be the funniest thing I’ve read in a very long time.

    I will say, though, while the paddle-like stick is absurd… store-bought roasting sticks are terribly useful. Having spent many an hour searching for a good roasting stick – thin enough not to mangle the marshmallow or hot dog, straight, and most importantly: long enough that you don’t sizzle off your eyebrows trying to roast the thing – having a perfect stick at the ready is a lovely. Plus, it’s so much easier to shove four marshmallows at a time onto a metal stick, because you can preheat it. Not that I know anybody who’s so impatient that she’d do four marshmallows at once *whistle* But then, you’ve got this flaming hot metal poker that takes like 15 minutes to cool. So do I get Free-Range anti-safety-freak brownie points for that? 😉

  55. car review September 9, 2010 at 5:33 pm #

    Sounds like it’s just a marketing ploy for that marshmallow cooker device. Ridiculous.

  56. Carrol June 19, 2012 at 11:15 am #

    My daughter is healing from a bad burn on her leg because she was roasting marshmallows and hers was on fire and when she brought it closer to her to blow it out the flaming marshmallow fell off her stick and landed on her leg (inner thigh) and it stuck their as she is screaming. My husband unstuck it from her as quickly as possible. This happnede to nights ago but with proper care and treatment it appears to be healing and the area is now scabbing over. It was all blistery and gross. It still has healing to do. My girl is being brave when I clean it and treat it even though it hurts.


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