Are Poorly Designed Instant Soup Cups Causing Burns on Children?

Yesterday on NPR’s “Planet Money” the topic was the increased burn risk with cups of instant noodle soups due to design flaws. The problem is that the lightweight Styrofoam cups are tall with a base area that is too narrow.  NPR quoted Dr. Warren Garner, director of the burn unit at University of Southern California’s County Hospital in Los Angeles.  “I don’t have them in my house,” says Garner. “I would say that we see at least two to three patients a week who’ve been injured by these products.”

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According to NPR:

These 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. At Garner’s unit, the most common cases are small children, often toddlers, accidentally tipping the cup over on to themselves.

“It pulls down on top of them,” Garner says. “The hot liquid then burns their chest, arms, torso, sometimes their privates, occasionally their legs.”

Hot Soup Cup Burn

For the “Planet Money” report, NPR contacted 12 burn units. Eight of them said they see the burn injuries from instant noodle soup several times a week. One burn unit nurse told NPR, “I could be at a supermarket paying for my groceries, look behind me, and there’s a mom with two young children buying a big pack of cup of noodles and I just can’t help but ask her to please be careful.”

As early as 2006, research into the instant noodle soup burn phenomenon found that the Styrofoam cup design may be flawed:

Prepackaged soups are a frequent cause of burn injury. We hypothesize that package design increases the risk for burn injury by affecting container stability. . . 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. (Journal of Burn Care & Research, 2006 Jul-Aug;27(4):476-81.)

According to NPR, noodle soup is “strangely perfect” for causing serious burns that may require grafting. Noodles conduct and retain heat well, and when they hit the skin they stay longer than most foods because they are sticky. This results in severe burns. Research published in the Journal of Burn Care & Research (2007) showed hospital stays from noodle soup burns can be twice as long as stays from other soups.

Parents should not have to worry that food marketed for children will injure them. If the instant soup cup design is flawed and this has been known since 2006, it should be changed. In addition, companies that sold the noodle soup in defective containers should be held accountable and punitive damages for burn injuries should be claimed. If your child has been burned by instant noodle soup, contact a burn injury lawyer at our law firm for a free consultation at 1-888-377-8900 or submit our free consultation form.

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