Series of Nationwide Incidents Highlights Danger of Household Cooking Spray Cans Manufactured by Conagra

May 7, 2019

Molly Hendriksen /

Explosion Video, 911 Call Recording and Graphic Images Illustrate Extent of Injuries Caused by Cooking Spray Cans Even When Used Properly

CHICAGO, IL – A nationwide spate of incidents involving exploding cans of household cooking spray highlight the danger that certain types of cans, which remain on store shelves across the country to this day, pose to unsuspecting consumers. The alarming incidents, detailed in six separate lawsuits filed today against food packaging giant Conagra Brands Inc. (NYSE: CAG), which manufactures PAM and other similar cooking spray brands, resulted in permanent injuries suffered in home kitchens and, in at least one case, a restaurant. Conagra has yet to institute a nationwide recall despite the fact that these cans still sit store shelves in stores like Costco, BJ’s Warehouse, Walmart and even online at Amazon.

Cooking spray is most commonly designed as an aerosol container that dispenses a fluid product under pressure. In 2011, Conagra began using a new kind of aerosol can in an effort to save money, as detailed in the lawsuits filed today. The new design is used primarily for cans that contain more than 10 oz. of product, the type usually sold at wholesale retail chains around the country under either the PAM label or generic store brands manufactured by Conagra for retailers. The new design includes a venting mechanism on the bottom of the can – visible as four U-shaped score marks – intended to allow the container to vent its flammable contents in a controlled manner. The plaintiffs in these six cases have alleged that the design of the cans is faulty, dangerous and prone to explosion.

“It is beyond irresponsible that, to increase profits, Conagra Brands made and sold cans of household cooking spray that are susceptible to explosion, choosing not to use the safer designs as it had for the last sixty years, and failed to warn consumers about the very serious risks,” said J. Craig Smith of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, the law firm that represents the victims in each of the cases. “Perhaps more alarming is the fact that, to this day, Conagra apparently refuses to institute a nationwide recall to ensure that the defective cans sitting on store shelves right now are removed before someone else suffers permanent injury from an explosion. Each day that these cans remain on store shelves, Conagra’s negligence puts consumers in danger.”

Six different lawsuits were filed this morning in Cook County Superior Court, located in Chicago, where Conagra maintains its headquarters. The details of these incidents are as follows:

  • On April 5, 2019, Maria Mariani was using the stove to boil water at her mother’s apartment in Staten Island, N.Y. Just as she shut the flame off, a cooking spray can erupted, setting fire to her hair which then quickly spread to her clothes and body. The fire charred nearly 30% of her skin and she now faces a long and painful process of surgery and rehabilitation.
  • On March 6, 2019, Raveen Sugantheraj, a medical student, was cooking dinner in his Indianapolis apartment when a fire broke out in the kitchen after the cooking spray can he was using vented and burst into flames. He and his girlfriend managed to put out the flames but Sugantheraj suffered severe burns to his face, neck, arms and hands that have required several surgeries and multiple skin grafts.
  • On November 6, 2018, a married Utah couple, Paytene Pivonka and Jacob Dalton, were using PAM cooking spray while cooking dinner at home on a gas stove. The can was located on a shelf several feet above the stove when it began spewing gas, propelling the can off of the shelf and onto the stove. It then exploded, creating an inescapable fireball that set the couple on fire. Both Ms. Pivonka and Mr. Dalton suffered excruciating pain and sustained third-degree burns to their faces, necks, arms and hands.
  • On May 19, 2018, a couple in Mt. Carmel, Illinois, Andrea Bearden and Brandon Banks were cooking at a relative’s home. The PAM cooking spray can was located on a shelf above the stove when it suddenly vented and fell onto the stove spewing flammable gas and oil into the flames, causing a fireball that burned both of them. The two were rushed to the nearest burn unit in Kentucky and treated for injuries to their faces, upper torsos and arms.
  • On July 16, 2017, Reveriano Duran was working his usual shift as a cook at Berryhill Baja Grill in Houston, Texas. He had placed a can of PAM cooking spray on a shelf in front of a grill when, without warning, the can began spraying flammable contents through its bottom vents. The can then exploded into flames, igniting a full-scale restaurant kitchen fire. As a result of the explosion, captured on video from a restaurant surveillance camera in the kitchen, Mr. Duran suffered serious and sustained injuries, including burns, scarring and disfigurement.
  • On July 15, 2017, Y’Tesia Taylor, then a college student from Greenville, TX, was preparing food at home using PAM cooking spray purchased from her local Wal-Mart. She had just set the can on a cart separate from the stove when she heard a sudden pop and then was immediately engulfed in a fireball caused by the exploding can. With skin hanging off of her arms, Ms. Taylor’s family called 9-1-1 and she was transported to the Greenville airport by ambulance and then airlifted to a hospital in Plano. Ms. Taylor sustained burns to her face, neck, chest, abdomen and both arms, and was placed in a medically induced coma for two weeks. Inhalation of the fireball caused her throat to swell and close, in addition to scarring her lungs. During the explosion, her contact lens was also burned to her right eye, causing damage so great that she is currently, and perhaps permanently, mostly blind in that eye.

The surveillance video of the Houston explosion and 9-1-1 call recording from the Greenville explosion, both of which were cited in the respective complaints filed this morning, are available here.

Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, a Connecticut law firm specializing in defective and harmful products litigation, has conducted unique research and product-safety testing on the design and safety of Conagra-manufactured spray cans. The research consisted of a variety of experts and lab tests over the course of several years. This extensive testing proved, undoubtedly, the defectiveness and faulty design of the bottom of Conagra cooking spray cans and the extreme safety hazards for consumers using the product. Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder believes there are additional injury victims who may not realize the potential cause of a kitchen fire or explosion experienced in the home.

Evidently aware of the danger the new can design poses, Conagra has inferred to business partners that, as of January 1, 2019, it has discontinued additional production using the new design. However, the company has refused to issue a nationwide recall of already-shipped product, which has a shelf life of several years, resulting in the dangerous cans remaining on store shelves.

Founded in 1919, Conagra is an American packaged foods company, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Conagra manufactures many household name brands that are sold across retail and restaurant channels, including Marie Callender’s, Healthy Choice, Slim Jim, Hebrew National, Orville Redenbacher’s, Reddi-wip, Snack Pack and more. Conagra generates more than $11 billion in revenue and employs more than 17 thousand employees across approximately 50 locations in the U.S. and internationally.