Conagra, the manufacturer of Pam cooking spray, is in the middle of multiple lawsuits being filed for what plaintiffs allege is a defective product. According to these allegations, the cooking spray aerosol can exploded and caused serious injuries because the design was defective. Conagra maintains that the product is safe when used as directed.
Accusations of Defective Product
Plaintiffs are claiming that the aerosol cans of Pam cooking spray explode when they shouldn’t do so. These explosions result in severe, life-threatening injuries that often have permanent damage.
Allegations state that the cans have exploded when they were at a safe distance from a heat source. In fact, one woman states that the can exploded after she had placed it in her shopping cart.
Many people understand that the contents of an aerosol can are kept under pressure. When the pressure is too great, it can cause an explosion. However, it should be designed that it is safe to use under normal circumstances. With the Pam cooking spray cans, they supposedly explode even at average temperatures at a safe distance from a heat source.
Conagra changed the design of the larger cans of Pam cooking spray in 2011. Vents were placed on the bottom of the cans, but allegations state that these vents did not work correctly, causing the chemicals inside the can to expand to dangerous levels at lower temperatures than what should allow this condition.
Six cases were filed in the Chicago courts on May 7th, 2019 against Conagra. Other lawsuits may be filed in the future. In one case, a video has been included which shows a cook engulfed in flames after the explosion. Allegations state that Conagra failed to adequately warn consumers of the dangers of the exploding cans, instead marketing them as safe when used in normal situations.
In one situation, a medical student who was living in Indianapolis was cooking dinner at home with his girlfriend. He used the cooking spray and it burst into flames. He suffered burn injuries to his face, arms and hands, and neck even though he was able to put out the fire. He has had to go through several surgeries to graft the skin to those burned areas.
What Caused the Injuries
Flammable chemicals are included in the list of ingredients for cooking sprays. When the temperature rises, the chemicals move faster and expand. The can continues to expand until there is no room and then it explodes.
The allegations are that the cans exploded at lower temperatures than what was claimed by Conagra. On the warning labels, the cautions for this product state that it should not be kept in areas that are above 120 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the cans have been known to explode at much lower temperatures with no warning to the customers who purchased them.
Two situations occur when the cans exploded. Many times, they create a flash fire because of the flammable contents. In one instance, a full kitchen fire resulted and a cook at a restaurant was caught on fire.
The second issue is the movement of other items because of the explosion. These items may hit a person, causing impact injuries. Both situations can lead to serious injuries that require immediate medical attention and long-term recovery.
Injuries from Exploding Cans
Those involved in the lawsuits against Conagra have reported a variety of injuries. The most common is burns which can range from first-degree to third-degree. With second- and third-degree burn injuries, the person may need one or several surgeries for skin grafting. Even with grafting, they may end up disfigured.
Along with burns, the people have reported blindness and nerve damage from burns. In many situations, the damage is permanent and leads to limitations in their ability to work and perform daily tasks.
Conagra has not recalled the products or accepted responsibility for these injuries. They have stated that the product is safe when the instructions are followed. They say that the product is labeled correctly with cautions on the packaging.
At the same time, the company has changed its design of these larger cans to match that of other cooking spray cans. Since the other products have not been taken off the shelf, they are still accessible for consumers. Anyone who has one of these larger cans should look on the bottom of the cans for the vents. They are U-shaped marks, which you can use to identify the defective products. These cans should not be used but should be disposed of safely.
FDA Sets Limit for Acceptable Amount of Arsenic in Baby Cereal
Cereal can contain arsenic from the grains it uses, but rice cereals are often higher in this toxic substance. The FDA has issued a limit for the amount of arsenic that can be found in rice cereal for infants. It is the first limit the agency has set up for arsenic in any food.
Arsenic in Baby Cereal
Rice is a grain with a high absorption rate for arsenic. It can end up with 10 times more of the metal than other grains. Because rice cereal is usually one of the first solid foods given to babies, it can have a significant impact on development.
Babies may eat multiple servings of rice cereal in a day, which can lead to exposure to inorganic arsenic, which is toxic. It can damage the neurodevelopmental system and harm their IQ.
Arsenic in rice cereal isn’t a new issue. Testing revealed that over 60 percent of rice cereals and other products have arsenic in them back in 2012. Since then, agencies have called for limits on the amount found in these products. Now, eight years later, the FDA has determined a limit of 100 parts per billion for arsenic in infant rice cereal. Other agencies have called for a lower limit.
While this limit is important news to manufacturers of baby cereal, it’s not enforceable. It is voluntary for manufacturers to follow these guidelines. The FDA conducted tests in 2018 on baby rice cereals, looking at the amount of arsenic present. About three-fourths of the products were at or below the new 100 ppb limit.
While critics believe this is an important first step to controlling the amount of arsenic that enters an infant’s system, they say more still needs to be done. Other products should be included, according to consumers advocates. Apple Juice is another product of concern. Experts believe it should be treated the same as drinking water with a limit of 10 ppb.
The Dangers of Arsenic
According to consumer advocates, limits should be given for all heavy metals, including lead and cadmium. The goal should be lower to reduce risk for children.
Arsenic is a natural element, which means it occurs in nature. It can get into the food supply through the soil as well as in the water and air. Contamination can happen with mining or fracking. Volcanoes that erupt can create an increase in arsenic at the surface of the earth.
Long-term exposure of arsenic has been linked to certain types of cancer and skin disorders. Even short-term exposure can lead to nausea and vomiting and other side effects. Young children have a higher risk for learning and development issues, which is why the FDA monitors products for infants and younger people at a higher rate than with other products.
It is important for parents to be aware of these risks and to determine which products are safest for their children. The effects from exposure to arsenic may not be seen right away, but they may be serious.
New Report Shows Automated Driving Systems Not Equal to Human Drivers
Automated systems have progressed quickly in the automotive industry. Vehicles can park and even drive without the assistance of drivers in some cases. However, a new study by AAA indicates that these systems still aren’t as reliable and safe as human drivers.
According to the report by AAA, the current automation systems are limited. They still require drivers to pay attention and not rely on them completely as they drive to prevent accidents. Researchers conducted tests of vehicle automation systems, including Ford CoPilot 360 and GM Super Cruise. These systems help the driver by performing steering, braking and acceleration at least partially without human intervention.
Research indicates that the systems aren’t always consistent in their performance. Some vehicles failed to stay within the designated lane and would occasionally steer too close to traffic coming from the other direction. Many of these systems have lane monitoring to keep vehicles in the correct lane.
The systems also come with automatic braking for emergencies or stopped traffic. AAA found that sometimes the vehicles may brake abruptly, not giving the vehicle behind them enough time to stop, resulting in a rear-end collision. These systems are also supposed to recognize obstacles to avoid accidents. However, some tests showed that they didn’t adjust direction to avoid a disabled vehicle that was in the roadway.
The manufacturers don’t claim perfection when it comes to the systems. In fact, they often include the shortcomings of the vehicle in the owners’ manuals. However, drivers often expect perfect performance when they drive. They rely solely on the automated systems rather than paying attention to the situation.
Based partly on the results of the study, AAA is asking manufacturers to improve these systems, often known as Level 2 systems, before they add them to new models. This isn’t the first test done of automated systems. The results are similar to other studies done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Consumer Reports has also seen similar results in evaluations of systems.
AAA used five vehicles for testing:
- 2019 Ford Edge
- 2019 BMW X7
- 2019 Cadillac XT6
- 2020 Subaru Outback
- 2020 Kia Telluride
All models feature active driving assistance. All but the Cadillac and Ford models were tested on the AAA closed test track. Those two models had limitations on location and speed. All five models were tested on a round trip between Los Angeles and San Francisco, which totaled 800 miles. They were driven on interstates as well as local highways.
All five models have problems with being able to stay in the correct lane. They fared well on the closed track, except for some left bias, which would put them closer to oncoming traffic. All five had issues on curving roads and hills.
While AAA admitted that some models worked better in various situations than others, none could be completely relied upon. The researchers recommend that drivers continue to pay attention and use the systems as assistance, but not to rely on them to do the job alone.
Gas Fireplaces Recalled Due to Safety Hazards
A specific brand of gas fireplace has been recalled due to the risk for burns and lacerations, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission website. The fireplace is manufactured by Miles Industries of Canada.
The specific name of the product is Valor H5 Gas Fireplace. It has been sold at Specialty Hearth stores, Abercrombie & Co, and Southern Fireplaces & More, as well as Custom Hearth and Southern Hearth & Patio. These units cost between $3700 and $5500 for the product alone, not including installation expenses. The recalled product was sold between July 2014 and March 2020.
The recall notice is for two models of the Valor H5, which were manufactured in seven trim options. They came with a mesh barrier screen and a log set. They are fully enclosed with a sheet metal box and a glass front. The fireplaces have an exhaust which is vented outside.
The issue with these fireplaces, which caused a recall notice was for a delayed ignition. The pilot degrades which would allow the gas to accumulate before it lights. Once the ignition happens, it can make the glass window shatter. A person nearby could be hit by the glass, causing lacerations. It can also lead to severe burns.
As the glass shatters, it can send the shards flying and embedding into a person who is in the vicinity. Flying glass can be more dangerous than a regular cut because of the power behind the impact. The risk for burns is significant as well if the glass shatters because it is like an explosion, which can cause the fire to travel further.
What Consumers Should Do
Consumers who own one of these products should stop using them immediately. They can contact the retailer where they bought the fireplace for a free repair. Miles Industries is also contacting any purchasers known. Consumers can also contact Miles Industries directly at 866-420-3360 or through email at H5@valorfireplaces.com.
Information about which models are part of the recall can be found on the right side of the box which holds the unit. The model number is listed on the top left with the serial number just below. The model number is 1150ILP with a serial number between 20001 through 20365. The other model number is 1150JLP with serial numbers between 20366 and 21502.
Do not continue using the fireplace until it has been checked out by a professional. A delayed ignition allows gas to build up, which can create a dangerous effect once it is lit. While only a small number of these products have been sold in the US, there have been reports of malfunction without injury. Consumers should take the recall seriously because these injuries can cause serious damage, depending on the area of impact on the person. Burns and lacerations from flying glass can be painful and even cause permanent damage.
Any recall notice should be heeded as evidence exists that it can be dangerous and even life-threatening in certain situations.
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