14 December 2011

How instant soup can burn toddlers

Most people are familiar with the incidents of spilled coffee burning the laps of automobile drivers.  An equivalent problem occurs when small children tip over containers of microwaved noodle soup.  NPR has the story:
These soups are dangerous because of the way the cups are designed. The cups are tall, lightweight, and have an unstable base that makes them tip over easily. At Garner's unit, the most common cases are small children, often toddlers, accidentally tipping the cup over on to themselves.
Noodle soup is strangely perfect for delivering a serious burn. The sticky noodles cling to the skin, which leads to deeper, more severe burns, according to a study published in 2007. The study showed that hospital stays for upper body noodle-soup burns are more than twice as long as scalds from hot liquids alone. Garner says that about one in five children he sees with the burns end up needing surgery, and these patients can face permanent scarring and limited mobility in their joints.
If you have such soups in your home, it's important to understand that the shape of the cup strongly influences the propensity of the container to tip over.  Further details at the link.


  1. I saw this elsewhere when it was first released and I had the same question then as I do now: what does the tipping angle have to do with some of these designs? Take the "winner" for example -- the bowl that requires a 63-degree angle to tip. Does this article intend to tell us that we can tilt that full bowl of soup at, say 61-degrees, and no soup will come out?

    I think the study is misleading in the use of the word "tip" as the tipping angle really isn't as important if you're already spilling the hot soup all over the table, floor, and child.

  2. A couple of things spring to mind.
    First, few surfaces will grip a soup cup tipped far anyway, so whether the cup topples is probably not particularly relevant.
    Secondly, I would expect the reason soup/noodles/pasta cups are so dangerous is that since they can't lose heat by convection they stay hot far longer than runny contents.
    Thirdly, the contents are far more likely to adhere to skin than runny liquids, so have longer to transfer heat and cause damage.
    Fourthly, a wide but shallow container may be more stable but is much more likely to slop while being carried, bringing its own problems.
    Fifthly, I can't stick to "a couple of points".

  3. What idiot would give a toddler boiling hot soup in the first place?

  4. Granted that Doug has a point, a little liquid sloshing over the top probably does some damage, but it is the sudden emptying of a tip over that is more likely to cause the major burns described.

  5. Now there's a nutritious meal for a child, scalding hot or not!

  6. I did exactly this when I was five years old. I had to go to the hospital, but I don't recall being there all that long (no surgery or permanent scarring). 21 years later, I am fully recovered, and the only lasting side-effect is that I scream uncontrollably every time I see Cup O' Noodles at the grocery store.

  7. "Fourthly, a wide but shallow container may be more stable but is much more likely to slop while being carried, bringing its own problems."

    Skip, at the link a propsed design is shown that answers your question.

  8. I always put my soup bowl on the table. It's flat. No tipping to worry about. Unless there's an earthquake, of course.

  9. Do you all not have small children? Typically burns caused by tipped scalding-hot liquids are NOT because the child is being fed or offered the product (since most parents are indeed smart enough not to give small children scalding hot liquids), but because they, from a low vantage point, become curious about the contents of a container, reach up, and pull the container over. Yes, supervision of small children is critically important, but they are FAST, and grow at a rate that means they can reach today what they couldn't last week. And reaching to try to prevent this kind of thing often compounds the problem, as most parents probably know from less-damaging substances like grape juice or poster paint.

    A splash of hot liquid might burn a small area, but the large, often torso-area burns that can be horrendously scarring and/or life-threatening are more likely caused by a full topple of the container, often a combination of "tippable-angle" of design, and "base-skid" along the surface from being tipped from a low vantage-point.

    yes, a shallow container has some slop-factor, but less topple.

    bigjohn756, small children are very like earthquakes.

  10. Tall narrow noodle cups are designed to be eaten while held in the hand. The proposed inverted design, aside from other potential problems, would be virtually impossible to hold onto. So we'd be ruining noodle cups for their intended audience (adults who aren't eating at a table, because if they were, they wouldn't be eating a cup of instant noodles) in order to protect kids, who really shouldn't be anywhere near a cup of hot noodles, for several reasons.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...