Conagra faces a number of product liability lawsuits over exploding cans of Pam and other cooking spray, which have caused severe burns, scarring and other injuries.
At last six separate complaints have been filed in the Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago, Illinois this week, naming Conagra Foods Inc. and its affiliate company, Conagra Brands Inc., as defendants. According to allegations raised in the complaint, the manufacturer failed to warn consumers that the cooking spray cans may explode during normal use around heat sources.
Since 2017, at least eight people in six states have suffered a variety of burns, scarring and disfigurement after Pam cooking spray exploded when being placed near a hot stove or cooking source. The lawsuits blame the explosions on a faulty can ventilation system, which the company has since phased out.
One of the plaintiffs, Maria Mariana, of Staten Island, New York, told CBS News she spent more than a month in the hospital and underwent three surgeries after suffering third degree burns on nearly 30% of her body. Mariana reported she had a can of PAM cooking spray setting next to the stove, and when she walked into her kitchen it exploded.
Plaintiffs Jacob Dalton and Paytene Pivonka said they were cooking in their home in Provo, Utah on November 6, 2018, when a canister of PAM stored on a wall shelf located well above the stove suddenly began spraying its contents through the u-shaped vents of the bottom of the can. Plaintiffs alleged that the cooking spray can burst into flames within seconds, causing severe burns and setting their kitchen on fire.
Dalton and Pivonka’s complaint (PDF) alleges Conagra began using a new aerosol can design in 2011, for 10 ounce or larger bottles, which was sold at wholesale retail chains as a cost saving measure. However, the product liability lawsuit claims these cost-saving cans are equipped with a faulty U-shaped vent system in the bottom, making them more likely to explode at lower temperatures than intended.
According to the lawsuit, Conagra negligently misrepresented the PAM cooking spray’s safety and fitness for use around stoves, grills and other heating sources, when in fact they are not safe for these areas. The plaintiffs also accuse Conagra of negligently failing to inform consumers of the dangers associated with their cooking sprays after being made aware of the explosions and reported injuries.
In response to the complaints, Conagra stated it phased out production of the vented 10 ounce and larger cans earlier this year, and maintains that any products remaining on store shelves are safe for consumer use.
Dan Hare, Conagra Brands’ Senior Director of Communication and External Relations released a statement in May 2019, maintaining that “[w]hen PAM is used correctly, as instructed, it is a 100-percent safe and effective product.”
Currently, no Pam Cooking Spray recalls have been issued, despite the serious injuries reported. However, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said it is aware of the lawsuits and is looking into the issue.