Burn Injuries From Instant Soups – Is There a Products Liability Claim?

Instant soups are causing serious burn injuries, particularly to children. 

A recent report by NPR reveals that instant soups are dangerous because of the way the cups are designed. The cups are tall, lightweight, and have an unstable base that makes them tip over easily.

NPR "learned that [burns from instant soups" is a common phenomenon, with children being the most frequent victims. Eight of the 12 hospitals said they see the injury several times a week. One hospital located in Washington D.C. says they regularly see 5-6 patients a week with the injury, especially during the colder months."

Soups are particularly dangerous because the noodles hold heat.  Here is the abstract of a study of the issue published in 2007:

During a 10-year period, a high incidence of burns from prepared noodle soup was noticed at the Baltimore Regional Burn Center. Because of the perceived severity of these burns, we took a more systematic look at the burns resulting from this type of soup to determine its effect on patient hospitalization and also examined the properties of the soup itself. All medical records of pediatric patients admitted to the Center between 1989 and 1999 with scald burns from various types of soup were retrospectively reviewed and divided into the Noodle Soup group, and the Other Soup group. The scald burns were compared as well as the physical properties of prepared noodle soup and tap water. Of 27 pediatric admissions for soup burns, 10 were from noodle soup and 17 from other types. Difference in average age and average total percentage of body surface area affected was not significant for the burns from either type of soup. However, the average length of stay for patients with noodle soup burns was significantly longer than for those with other types of soup burns (P < .010). Also, the cooling curve for noodle soup is much slower than for normal tap water. Noodle soup causes a significantly longer hospital stay than other types of soup. Because the boiling temperature of water and noodle soup is about the same, but the cooling curve of noodle soup is much slower, noodle soup may present a greater danger to children than other types of soup.

The design of the soup containers can be changed to greatly reduce the risk of harm, according to this study published in 2006:

Prepackaged soups are a frequent cause of burn injury. We hypothesize that package design increases the risk for burn injury by affecting container stability. All pediatric scald burns caused by soup, between June 1997 and August 2004, were reviewed for burn and patient characteristics. Instant or "ready-to-eat" soups also were purchased. Safety statements and recommendations as to use of the microwave oven were documented. The height and the areas of the base and top were compared to the angle that a container would tip over on to its side. During the study period, 99 admissions and 80 outpatients were treated for burns caused by soup. Although the burn size was small (mean 5% TBSA) 22 patients required grafting. Of 13 different soups, 11 required the addition of hot water, and 2 were prepackaged for eating out of the container. Twelve containers had round bases and were tall and narrow, with one being shorter and rectangular. The measurements that correlated with the ease of tipping over were the base area, top area, and the ratio of height/base area. The most significant contributor to the ease of tipping over was height. Instant soups are packaged in containers that tend to be tall with a narrow base that predisposes them to being knocked over and spilled. Simple redesigning of instant soup packaging with a wider base and shorter height, along with the requirement for warnings about the risks of burns would reduce the frequency of soup burns.

This research tends to indicate that those burned by instant soup may have a products liability claim against the soup manufacturer.  The law requires that products be packaged in such a way to make them reasonably safe for the consumer.  Whether a manufacturer will be held liable for burns caused by the product depends on many factors.

If you or a member of your family have been burned by a instant soup, contact  an experienced Tennessee products liability lawyer for a free consultation.  Our firm will investigate your case at no charge and, if it has merit, will accept representation on a contingent fee basis (which means we only get paid if we are able to make a recovery for you)