Last week, Conagra — the Chicago-based parent company of Pam, the most popular brand of cooking spray — faced 17 new lawsuits from people who have been seriously injured by cans of cooking spray that have caught fire or exploded, including several in Texas. This follows a handful of similar suits filed earlier this year against both Conagra and DS Containers, which makes the cans themselves.
Any kind of aerosol in a kitchen could be considered a fire hazard, but the New Food Economy reports that these recent incidents seem to be related to larger cans of cooking spray, 10 ounces or more, that have a U-shaped valve, which could be releasing the flammable material.
Several of these explosions or fires were caught on surveillance camera, including one at Houston’s Berryhill Baja Grill in July 2017, when the can began spraying flammable contents, which then exploded into flames. (Warning: Some of these videos contain graphic content.) Just a few days earlier, a can of cooking spray exploded in Greenville, causing the woman in the kitchen to be airlifted to a hospital in Plano for burn treatment.
The cases were filed in Illinois, where Conagra is based, but food professionals and home cooks around the country have taken note. Conagra, which has denied it is at fault, started selling these larger cans in 2011 and says it stopped selling the vented cans earlier this year, but not because of safety issues, New Food Economy reported. “We redesign packaging in the ordinary course of business, and just as we began utilizing the vented can years ago, we removed it from production...to standardize our cans across the entire aerosol cooking spray product line,” a Conagra official told New Food.
Every can of cooking spray carries a warning about keeping the can away from heat, but because so many of these cans with the U-shaped vent are still being used, the plaintiff’s lawyers want Conagra to issue a recall to bring more attention to the safety issue.
“This cooking spray is so common and can be found in almost every kitchen in the U.S.,” Peter J. Flowers, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “We are urging home cooks and food service professionals to beware and to check those cans in your cabinets and pantries.”
Store-branded cans of cooking spray have also exploded or caught fire in recent years, but it is unclear which house brands were involved. If you do have a can of cooking spray with a U-shaped value, take extra caution to make sure it is not stored or placed next to a heat source and that you don’t leave it in your car, where it could get hotter than 120 degrees.