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NPR reports dangers in instant cups of soup

Design flaw often leads to serious injury, mostly in toddlers

Ah … those instant cups of soup. Just add boiling water and let sit for a couple of minutes and you’re set. It must be the easiest meal in the world. Well, not when that quick lunch is immediately followed by a trip to the ER.

This morning, NPR’s Morning Edition reported about the dangers of these popular instant meals—and according to doctors around the country, injuries are more common than the average person might think. In fact, journalist Mara Zepeda reached out to 12 hospitals while she was reporting the story to ask how often they see injuries from instant cups of soup. Eight of the 12 said they see injuries several times a week, while others reported seeing at least one. Most of these injuries, Zepeda reported, are to young children and toddlers who accidentally knock over the cup and spill the scalding liquid onto their bodies.

According to Dr. David Greenhalgh, chief of burns at Shriners Hospital for Children in Northern California, the number of these injuries could be greatly reduced with a simple design change: flip the cup. Greenhalgh wrote a book on the topic: “Instant Cup of Soup: Design Flaws Increase Risk of Burns” in 2006 after he and colleagues conducted a study of 11 brands of these soups to find the angle at which the cup tipped over and spilled its contents. While the cup least likely to tip over (a brand called Nicecook) spilled at an impressive 64 degrees, one of the worst results came from the country’s most popular brand, Cup Noodles. It tips at only 22 degrees.

“All you have to do is flip it over,” Greenhalgh told NPR. “It would seem to be a very easy thing to do and think I could get some of my team members to do to one of the companies and say, ‘Here, why don’t you try this?’”

Listen to Zepeda’s report on NPR.

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Cathleen Flahardy

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