The investigation of contamination which allegedly led to the death of three infants in the United Kingdom has finally resulted in charges being filed. ITH Pharma, a specialist who manufactures baby foods that can be served intravenously, has been accused of “supplying medicines not of the nature or quality specified” and negligence in ensuring that hospital foods were protected from potential contamination, putting them in violation of the Health and Safety at Work Act. Seven charges were filed in total.
Scotland Yard first opened their investigation in June of 2014 after a string of seemingly related deaths and illnesses at British hospitals, but the inciting incident was the death of Yousef Al-Kharboush at St. Thomas’ hospital in Lambeth, London. The cause of death was identified as blood poisoning and was eventually linked back to the intravenous food known as total parental nutrition (TPN) produced by ITH. Al-Kharboush was born premature and was nine days old when he passed. His twin survived. Due to their weakened immune systems, premature babies are especially susceptible to disease and infection, and that may have played a contributing role in Al-Kerboush’s death. Blood poisoning was determined as the cause of death for two other infants, and 20 others became ill with blood poisoning after being exposed to TPN. Between all the victims, the epidemic reached nine British hospitals. Many of them were premature like al-Kharboush.
Despite the correlation between the feeding of TPN to these infants and death or illness, only one of the fatalities was linked directly to the contamination. TPN had been used in hospitals throughout the United Kingdom since 2009 but was promptly withdrawn following the crisis. It was used with particular frequency in the nation’s neonatal units, where the severe conditions of the patients often necessitate drip-based feeding rather than more traditional methods. The investigation was led by the Met and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.
The parents of Yousef seemed critical of some aspects of the investigation. Raaid Sakkijha and Ghada Al-Kharboush claimed that the length of the investigation, which took place over the course of four years, had only exacerbated their grieving process. “It has been like living with an open wound that will not close… we never celebrate events such as Yousef’s brother’s birthday because it is too painful a reminder,” said Mr. Sakkijha. The family is currently pursuing a civil case against ITH Pharma for their responsibility in Yousef’s death. ITH Pharma says it “will vigorously defend this case” though it also said that the company has “every sympathy for all the families affected.” ITH disputes their role in these circumstances as negligent, though they don’t seem to dispute that their formula was the source of the contamination. They claim instead that the source of the contamination was a raw and unspecified ingredient that they received from a supplier. Representatives from ITH Pharma are scheduled to appear in magistrates’ court on the 17th of December.
PAM Cooking Spray Explosions Result in Multiple Injuries
Multiple reports have been noted about injuries to people from exploding cans of Pam cooking spray along with other brands. Some of these incidents have led to lawsuits being filed against Conagra, the manufacturer of Pam.
The Claims Against Conagra
The plaintiffs are alleging that the aerosol cans for the cooking spray were defective because they exploded even with normal use. They say that the manufacturer never warned about the potential risk for these situations to occur.
The cans have exploded when being used in a kitchen or placed on a shelf around the stove. One instance occurred when a woman claims she was injured by an exploding can after placing it in her shopping cart. Another person was working as a chef in Houston, Texas and his body caught on fire when a can exploded above the grill in the restaurant. It resulted in a full kitchen fire.
The manufacturer has responded to these claims by stating it believes the product is safe when used correctly. Conagra has said that care must be given, and the cautions are listed on the packaging and must be followed. The cautions include not storing the can in an area with the temperature about 120 degrees Fahrenheit and not keeping it close to a hot stove or spraying it over an open flame.
Even with the number of injuries reported, there have been no recalls of the product. Conagra did change its design for the larger aerosol cans, but it says the reason was to standardize all cans.
The Danger of a Defective Spray Can
Contents of the Pam cooking spray are held under pressure in an aerosol can. When the pressure becomes too great, it can cause an explosion. However, plaintiffs are alleging that these cans were defective because they exploded before they should, and no warnings were in place about the possibility of such an incident.
Conagra has been making this product for over 50 years, most of the time with no problems. In 2011, a new design for the aerosol cans were put into production for a limited number of cans. These cans are the larger version rather than the regular can you would find in most residential kitchens. Instead, they are often used in restaurants and other food-industry businesses. However, they were also sold in warehouse stores like Sam’s, which allowed homeowners to purchase the cans for use at home.
With the new design for the cans of cooking spray, the vents were placed at the bottom, which would allow the can to vent instead of exploding. Flammable liquids are included in the ingredients, such as propane and butane. When the cans get too close to a heat source, these chemicals begin to move faster, causing the can to expand. Once it has ran out of room for expansion, the can will explode if it cannot vent correctly.
While all aerosol cans have this same danger, the temperature usually must be very high to cause an explosion. You might think of a can of hairspray left in a car on a hot summer day. It will explode when the temperature in the car gets too hot. However, this situation is not supposed to occur in a kitchen under normal circumstances.
Injuries from a Defective Cooking Spray Can
The injuries being reported from cooking spray can explosions have mostly been burns. They may be second- and third-degree burns, which require surgery and skin grafting. Other injuries result from the impact of objects that are moved because of the explosion.
One person lost most of their eyesight because their contact lens melted to their eyeball when a can of cooking spray exploded. Burns to hands can result in damage to nerves and loss of feeling. Many of these injuries are permanent and can cause disfigurement.
The victims often lose work and may be unable to return to their jobs because of permanent injury. The injuries often require multiple surgeries and extensive rehabilitation which can take months or even years.
These cases have happened all around the country from Indiana to Texas to Illinois and other locations. As more people realize what has happened, there may be additional lawsuits. Anyone who has a larger sized can of cooking spray can easily determine if it is one of the defective designs. It will have U-shaped marks on the bottom of the can as vents. These cans should be disposed of correctly and not used to prevent the risk of explosion.
Conagra at the Middle of a Lawsuit for Pam Cooking Spray
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.
The Danger of Cooking Spray and Explosion Risks—An Overview
There have been numerous recent reports of aerosol cans of cooking spray—such as PAM brand cooking spray—exploding near the stove and leaving victims with severe burn injuries. Innocent consumers across the United States have been victims of severe bodily injuries, including burns to their hands, face and neck, due to a seemingly innocent pantry staple violently exploding on them.
If you have an aerosol spray can of PAM cooking spray, you should read the information below and in our following three articles that will overview the dangers of these cans, the design defects that are causing these explosions and the injuries suffered by unsuspecting victims, and whether a lawsuit could be a path forward for you.
The Danger of Exploding Cooking Spray Cans: A Violent History.
Sadly, it’s not breaking news that innocent consumers are falling victim to exploding aerosol cans of cooking spray. In fact, this danger has a well-documented history in America; still, however, these hidden dangers are still sold by the millions in grocery stores nationwide.
There have been dozens of victims claiming that aerosol cooking spray cans have exploded violently without warning, leaving them scarred with serious injuries and burns.
Perhaps one of the worst cases involves an Ohio woman who was cooking by the stove in 2017, using a can of PAM brand cooking spray while she cooked food at the stovetop. All she could recall about the incident was that she was cooking, putting a fork in the pan, when the explosion blast happened in a moment. She said that the next thing she realized was that she was on fire.
The woman suffered severe burns to her face, neck and chest. Doctors said that had her eyes been open at the moment of the blast, she would likely be blind. She suffered from her injuries for weeks as she recovered in an outpatient facility. She struggled for months to return to normal activities, like dressing herself and bathing.
Experts reviewing this fire and similar fires say that the aerosol can of PAM cooking spray overheated from the heat of the nearby stove, or fell into a flame of the stove, and as a result of the heat combusted into a fireball explosion. Similar cases have occurred across the United States, in Connecticut, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and others.
So Why Do These Explosions Keep Occurring?
Because of the violent nature of these explosions—and the resulting serious injuries—naturally there have been numerous investigations into the cause of the blasts.
These investigations include reports by expert scientific witnesses who have testified about the cause of the explosions in several of the lawsuits that have come from these explosions, brought by innocent victims seeking reimbursement for their horrific injuries.
After a scientific review, these experts concluded that a design flaw in the aerosol cooking spray cans were the likely cause for the explosions.
Each of the cans that caused an explosion had vents along the bottom of the cans. The evident intent of these vents was to help release the pressure from the can, to help prevent it from exploding during normal use. But it turns out that these vents were doing the exact opposite.
Instead of releasing the internal pressure from the cans, the vents were releasing air at much lower, and much less-pressurized levels than should be released from an aerosol can vent. These levels were well below what would be necessary to release pressure from the can to ensure safety during use. And because of the low temperature and pressure, the air released was extremely flammable.
This flammable air released from the aerosol cooking spray cans, when combined with either heat from a nearby stove or by accidentally being dropped in a hot stove, triggered an immediate and violent blast. The resulting explosions were essentially fireballs, exploding right in the face of the victims.
We’ve written a detailed overview of the design defect of these cans, and why that could be important to recover damages if you’ve suffered injuries from an exploding can. You can read more here.
What Kinds of Injuries Occur from These Explosions?
Exploding cans of cooking spray can cause immediate—and horrific—injuries. These injuries are those that would typically come with a large fire or violent explosion, such as:
- First degree burns to exposed areas, such as the neck, hands, face and chest;
- Second degree burns in these areas that penetrate both the outer and middle layers of the skin and can take weeks to recover;
- Third degree burns in these bodily areas that penetrate the deeper tissues of the body and can cause lifelong injuries and deformations, and can take months to heal;
- Blindness from open eyes at the time of the explosion;
- And death.
We’ve outlined the types of injuries and cases that have occurred as a result of these dangerous devices. You can read more here.
What Can Victims of these Cooking Spray Explosions Do?
If you’ve been a victim of injury from a cooking spray can explosion, there are laws that protect you and legal options that can help you recover for your hospital bills, physical disrepair to your home and other damages you suffered from the explosion.
In the United States, we have consumer protection laws, both at the state and federal level, that are meant to protect you in situations like this where a consumer product is unsafe. Products sold to consumers in stores—like PAM brand cooking spray—must comply with these laws. Products like cooking spray must be safe for “ordinary use,” which means how a reasonable person would use the product according to the package instructions.
Hiring an experienced product liability litigation attorney is always in your best interest if you’ve been a victim of these explosions. Having a knowledgeable attorney at your side when facing a global manufacturing company in the courtroom can significantly increase the changes of obtaining a favorable result, whether that is at settlement or at trial. Victims attempting lawsuits without an attorney have reported much lower compensation, as they face intimidating large companies and their attorneys.
You can read about how you could bring a lawsuit to recover damages for your injuries and damages in our article here.
So if you or someone you love has suffered injuries from a cooking spray can explosion, you should read further through our articles on the design defect of the cans, the types of injuries these explosions have caused, and how you could recover damages for your suffering through a lawsuit.
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