Instant cup of soup: Design flaws increase risk of burns

David G Greenhalgh, Peggy Bridges, Elena Coombs, Debbie Chapyak, William Doyle, Michael S. O'Mara, Tina L Palmieri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)476-481
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Burn Care and Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Rehabilitation
  • Surgery


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