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Burn injuries affect a surprising number of children annually

A recent Popular Science article relayed information about a previously relatively unconsidered subset of child injuries: burns. Minor burns are pretty common, with children suffering scalds from hot water or touching hot stoves every day across the country, but this article highlights something that many of us might not consider a burn hazard: instant soup and ramen.

Data cited in the article found that nearly 10,000 children each year go to emergency rooms for burns caused by instant soup. These aren’t your stereotypical ramen eaters – college students have that dubious honor – but instead this group is comprised of young children between the ages of four and twelve. One out of every ten children visiting the E.R. for soup-related burns needed to be hospitalized for their injuries; that’s nearly 1,000 children per year. In fact, soup injuries are so common that they account for one out of every five pediatric burns.

Previous studies, including a 2008 one that found 65 percent of microwave-related child burns to be from soup, recommended changing the packaging, particularly for all-in-one Styrofoam cups that cook the soup within. These containers tend to tip at a very low angle, meaning the likelihood of injury from spilled contents is greater.

Does this mean that soup manufacturers need to step up the safety of their products? Not necessarily. The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) collects data on all manner of injuries from products we use in our everyday lives, everything from forks to power tools, and determines whether a product should be recalled, redesigned or taken off the market altogether. Some products eventually get the ban if they produce too many injuries, and some – like chainsaws, for example – are inherently dangerous if used incorrectly, so they come with myriad warnings cautioning careful use.

There’s no indication that soup manufacturers will be rolling out new, safer packaging any time soon, so in the meantime, watch your children carefully if they want to make themselves a quick lunch of instant soup. Better yet, consider advising them to make something a little less hazardous instead.