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Instant Soup Cups Pose Serious Burn Risk

Quick and easy to make, great for meals on-the-go, and cost effective for people on a budget, instant cups of soup are the “hot” item on many people’s grocery lists. Yet, for all of the convenience, instant cups of soup, mostly because of the design of the packaging, send many people, often children, to hospitals to be treated for burns.

Risk of Severe Burns

According to Dr. Warren Garner, director of the burn unit at University of Southern California’s County Hospital in Los Angeles, the people most often rushed to the hospital with burns from instant cups of soup are children and toddlers.

Talking about the types of burns received when young children accidentally overturn their instant cups of soup, Dr. Garner told NPR, “The hot liquid then burns their chest, arms, torso, sometimes their privates, occasionally their legs.”

Burns from instant cups of soup are not limited to Dr. Garner’s hospital. For its article, NPR spoke with 12 hospitals from all around the United States, and, of the dozen hospitals, eight told NPR that these types of burns are seen “several times a week.”

Dr. David Greenhalgh, Chief of Burns at Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Northern California, told NPR that burns from instant cups of soup were common enough that when a new burn patient would come to the hospital the reaction would be, “Well, what’s this from? Oh, another cup of noodles soup.”

The burn risks posed by hot soups can be significant. Dr. Garner estimates that nearly 1 in 5 children who require a trip to the emergency room after being scalded by instant cups of soup require surgery, and he said that many of these patients could end up having mobility issues in their joints or receive permanent scarring.

Some Soups More Dangerous?

The dangers of instant cups of soup are not just recounted in anecdotal stories of doctors either. In 2007, a study was published that reviewed the medical records of pediatric patients admitted to the Baltimore Regional Burn Center from 1989 to 1999. The study looked to see if there was a difference in the severity of burns between two groups of instant cups of soup, noodle and non-noodle soups.

The study found that children admitted to the hospital with burns from noodle soups had an average hospital stay that was “significantly longer” than the stays of children admitted to the hospital with burns from non-noodle soups. The study found that the rate of cooling was the reason for the longer hospital stays for children burned by noodle soup. The “cooling curve” for noodle soup is slower than that of non-noodle soup, meaning noodle soups stay hotter for longer periods of time. The study also noted that the noodles themselves are good at inflicting severe burns; the noodles tend to be sticky and cling to the skin, which allows them to deliver “deeper” burns.

The problem with instant cup of soups isn’t just that people are spilling hot liquid on themselves; it’s that the design of the packaging makes it extremely easy for people, especially children, to spill and burn themselves. Dr. Garner told NPR that of the injuries that he treats regularly, burns from instant cups of soup can be most “directly attributed to a product’s design.”

Dangerous Design

Sitting on a narrow base, the tall, light-weight package design of many instant cups of soup allows them to easily tip over and spill, as highlighted in a National Public Radio (NPR) article.

Dr. Greenhalgh conducted a study that found that soups in containers that are tall with narrow bottoms are the most likely to tip over. The solution to the poorly designed and potentially dangerous instant cups of soup? According to Dr. Greenhalgh, all that needs to be done is inverting the design of the packaging.

For people who are injured by instant cups of soup or other dangerous products, they may be able to recover compensation for their medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering by filing a products liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of the product.

Products Liability Claims

After a dangerous or defective product causes an injury, in general, there are four elements to be proved in order to hold a manufacturer liable for negligence in a products liability claim, including:

  • The manufacturer owes a duty of care (the product will work as intended) to the injured person;
  • The defendant breached the duty (the product did not work as intended);
  • The breach of the duty owed caused the person to suffer injuries or damages; and
  • The plaintiff suffered injuries or damages.

If you or a loved one has been severely burned by an instant cup of soup or injured by another dangerous or defective product, speak with a knowledgeable Massachusetts products liability attorney.

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