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Exploding Pam cooking spray cans prompt a storm of lawsuits

Exploding Pam cooking spray cans prompt a storm of lawsuits
[Photo: Flickr user Mike Mozart]

Pam Cooking Spray is at the center of a spate of lawsuits alleging that the cooking-spray cans were defectively designed and could explode when near to a stove or grill or any warm place where you may want to use cooking spray.

Eight people are suing Conagra, the maker of Pam and other cooking sprays, after the cans exploded and severely burned and disfigured them. The paperwork was filed in Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago Tuesday morning. These aren’t minor injuries: One person was burned and blinded in one eye after a can of Pam exploded, according to the suit; another can burned two people in their kitchen after it exploded; and another person was cooking in a restaurant when the cooking spray blew up.

While Pam and other cooking sprays are safely used by millions of people every day, most people have no clue that the nonstick spray could turn lethal, even though it says so on the bottle. According to court filings, that’s the problem: Conagra failed to warn consumers of the danger.

According to USA Today, Conagra has redesigned its cooking spray cans, but it has not issued a recall for the older models. If people have older versions in their kitchens, they should be extremely cautious and carefully heed the directions on the cans, which warn of flammability and note that cooking spray shouldn’t be left on a stove or near a heat source, sprayed near an open flame, or stored above 120°F. As to the question of whether designing a cooking spray that can’t be stored near a stove or open flame is itself a defect, that’s now up to the courts.

We reached out to Conagra for comment and they sent a statement, noting that “when PAM is used correctly, as instructed, it is a 100-percent safe and effective product,” and recommending that consumers should follow the “clear instructions on both the front and back of the packaging alerting consumers that the product should be used responsibly as it is flammable.”

“The safety of our products and our consumers is always our top priority,” the company wrote. “Even if a consumer is concerned, the vented can design, that is in question, was used in market on a limited number of cans over the last several years, and has not been used in the vast majority of the product sold. We redesign packaging in the ordinary course of business, and just as we introduced the vented can years ago, we removed it from active production, earlier this year, as we sought to standardize our cans across the entire aerosol cooking spray product line.”

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