Cooking spray seems to be an innocuous kitchen product that puts oil in a form that is convenient to use. However, like any spray product, there are dangers associated with the product since the contents are under pressure. Recently, there have been several lawsuits that have been filed by the manufacturers of Pam cooking spray that were all filed on the same day.
The plaintiffs suffered injury when cans of this cooking spray exploded, leaving them with serious disfiguring injuries. The lawsuits claim that there is a defect in the product that caused them to explode, although the company maintains that its products are safe and any explosions must have been due to improper use.
One of the overlooked complications associated with using cooking sprays in the kitchen is that they are used on or in close proximity to stoves. This heats contents that are already under pressure and makes them even more potentially dangerous. Specifically, Pam contains propellants designed to make the product spray through the vents. The company will not reveal exactly what these propellants are, but the lawsuits claim that they are propane and butane. All the company says is that the propellants are food grade and have been approved by the FDA. However, when heated, these propellants can become explosive.
The specific lawsuits focus on the construction of the can as a cause of the explosion. Specifically, the complaint alleges that the cans were designed and manufactured with u-shaped vents on the domed bottom of the canister that were designed to open when the can buckled or when the bottom of the canister became convex instead of concave. The lawsuits further claim that the canister of Pam Cooking Spray at issue was designed and manufactured so that when the can buckled and the u-shaped vents on the bottom of the canister opened, the internal contents of the canister would escape through the vents and the pressure inside the can would be reduced.
This issue does not affect all cans of Pam that were sold. This vent at issue was included in larger cans that contained ten or more ounces of the spray. Typically, these would be the bulk cans and not the smaller cans that are bought in the supermarket which contain five to six ounces of spray.
One plaintiff claims that she sprayed from the can and then placed it in a wooden utility cart that was adjacent to the stove. She heard a loud noise and the contents of the can sprayed through the u-shaped vents on the bottom of the can and exploded into flames. This burned her and started a fire in her kitchen. At the time the lawsuits were filed, the law firm that represented the plaintiffs released a video of a Pam can exploding at a restaurant. The video shows a massive fireball engulfing the kitchen and the cook in a split second. At the time of the explosion, the can was placed on a shelf near the grill. The video clearly reveals that the can was not on or over the stove, and shows that the fire starts at least two feet away from the stove. The cook was seriously burned in the explosion and was hospitalized for his extensive injuries.
Although there is the possibility that use near extreme heat can cause the explosion, at least one incident at issue in a lawsuit involves an explosion that did not occur anywhere near a kitchen or a stove. In one incident, a woman took a can of Pam off of a shelf at a Walmart and placed it in her shopping cart. At that time, the can exploded immediately, causing her severe burns. The woman was in a medically induced coma for two weeks due to her injuries.
ConAgra, who is the manufacturer of Pam claims that its product is entirely safe. In a statement issued after the lawsuits were filed, the manufacturer has attempted to lay the blame for the accident at the hands of the plaintiffs. They state that there is a warning on the product that advises customers that the product should not be left near the stove and that consumers should know that the product is flammable. The company acknowledged that it pulled the can with the design at issue off of the market, but said that the reason was because it wanted to standardize the design and did not admit that there was anything wrong with that particular can.
Further, although the company claimed that there was nothing wrong with this particular design, a company spokesperson went out of their way to assure consumers that the design was used in a very limited number of cans. Nonetheless, there may still be cans using this design on store shelves or in kitchens because Pam has a long shelf life and can remain in stores or kitchen for years before the product is either fully used or expired.