Every year, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) collects information about a wide range of injuries caused by an even wider range of products, and compiles all of that data in its searchable National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) database. The information is gathered from the records of 96 hospitals in the United States and in US territories, and it is beyond valuable for researchers.
Because of NEISS, the CPSC was able to estimate that more than 2,300 people went to the ER last year with pizza-related injuries. And because of NEISS, a research team from Emory University was also able to calculate that every year, one out of every five pediatric burns is caused by microwavable soups and instant ramen. That means that 10,000 children are scalded by hot soups annually.
According to CNN, Dr. Courtney Allen, a pediatric emergency fellow at Emory, and her team looked at more than 4,500 pediatric burns that were included in NEISS data during the past 11 years. (NEISS defines a child as being between the ages of four and 12 years old). And, much like the CPSC looked for the word ‘pizza’ in the injury description, Dr. Allen searched for “instant soup,” “instant noodles,” and “cup of soup.” There were 972 burns that matched their search terms, and if that number of injuries in that number of hospitals is extrapolated to include the entire United States, then they estimate that instant soups and noodle cups cause almost 10,000 pediatric burns every year.
"It's important for us to remember, and for parents to remember, that these are just thin containers with boiling water in them," Dr. Allen said. “I think there's an assumption that these are safer than soups coming out of a stove, when, in fact, they're not."
The fact that instant or microwavable soup containers are dangerous to children isn’t new information: In 2006, the Journal of Burn Care and Research published its a paper suggesting that the shape of the cups themselves is what made them so problematic.
“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 authors wrote. “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.”
Dr. James J. Gallagher, the director of the William Randolph Hearst Burn Center at NewYork-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center, told CNN that parents can take extra care to try to prevent these accidents, including allowing the soup to cool before serving them, buying soups in containers that are less easy to spill (or we’d add transferring the soup into a more stable cup or bowl), and watching young children while they eat.
Who knew Cup Noodles were so sinister?