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Personal Injury Risks Lurk in Unexpected Places, Favorite Foods

Supreme pizza

While the pizza may have originated in western Europe, the cheesy, decadent pie could easily be considered the national dish of the United States. Hot pizza is a favorite most Americans, from the young to the young at heart. It can be found in a variety of forms, from the deep-dish Chicago pie to the oversized New York slice and to the low-carb, vegan incarnations popular among the health-conscious in Southern California. Wherever you go in America, pizza can be found in one form or another. However, many are unaware of the hidden personal injury risks associated with this hot, cheesy treat.

The New York Post published an article this week warning readers that, although they may feel safe while eating pizza, pizza-related personal injuries have skyrocketed in the last couple of years.  As a result, pizza can be considered one of the more dangerous foods around. [1]

In 2017, the United States saw a total of 2,300 pizza-related personal injuries, a staggering number that represents more than six personal injury accidents per day. In 2018, this number was closer to 3,800, representing an increase of roughly 50 percent. (And a rate of more than 10 pizza-related personal injuries per day.) This data was compiled by a medical service provider called Babylon Health, and 2018 represented the most dangerous year to date for pizza personal injuries. To arrive at these figures, the company analyzed data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), which is run by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. Researchers examined medical records from 100 emergency rooms across the country, looking for the word “pizza” in the doctors’ notes. Examples of pizza personal injuries included falling while carrying a heavy pizza box; lacerating fingers with rolling pizza cutters; and people poking the roofs of their mouths with a fork while eating pizza, swallowing foreign objects while enjoying pizza, and slipping while preparing pizza. [2] One can only speculate as to whether this year-to-year dramatic increase in pizza personal injuries is due to more dangerous pies, an increase in pizza consumption generally, or some other factor.

Other Dangerous Foods

Pizza already has reputational problems when it comes to nutrition, and now it may also warrant scrutiny from the standpoint of risks of personal injury accidents. Readers may remember when, over a decade ago, food safety organizations began warning consumers about the dangers of single-bite jellies containing a substance called konjac. These treats were wildly popular with small children at the time. They were sweet, with a firm Jell-O-like texture, and came in a variety of flavors and colors. When eaten in a single bite, these jellies were known to pose a choking hazard to young children and infants. They were relatively large and stiff, and could become easily lodged in the throat. [3]

More recently, a school in Essex in the United Kingdom was forced to reckon with the dangers of triangular flapjacks. Students had been safely enjoying pancakes with corners for years. However, during an otherwise uneventful lunch at the school this year, one student threw a flapjack at another pupil. The snack hit the boy in the eye, resulting in a moderate injury and prompting review of the “texture and shape of the flapjacks.” Researchers concluded that a four-cornered flapjack would be safer than a triangular one because it is less aerodynamic, and therefore less likely to serve as an effective lunchtime projectile. [4] (Apparently no one asked why the Brits favor polygonal pancakes.)

Food Injuries in the Workplace

While any food can pose a small risk of injury to an eater when handled irresponsibly, food is much more dangerous for those who prepare it. Workplace injuries among restaurant workers are frequent and range from minor cuts, warranting only minimal first aid, to serious injuries requiring a doctor’s attention or hospitalization. Some of the most common workplace injuries among restaurant workers include:

  • Cuts, lacerations and punctures
  • Slip and fall injuries
  • Joint sprains and muscle strains
  • Burns and scalds

Cuts and lacerations account for about one-fifth of all workplace injuries in restaurants. Restaurant workers are constantly chopping, peeling, mincing, and dicing foods. There are other sharp objects in a kitchen, including slicer blades, blenders, grinders, and broken glass. Even with proper safety training and good knife skills, mistakes are bound to happen. [5]

Slip-and-fall-accidents can happen anywhere, but they are especially likely to occur in a crowded kitchen, where slippery liquids or fine powders may sometimes spill from the countertops to the floors. Maintaining a clean kitchen and installing non-slip flooring can help combat the likelihood of slip-and-fall injuries in a restaurant. [6]

Sprains and strains often occur when workers attempt to lift, bend, or reach items on a high shelf. A well-thought-out kitchen might place heavy items on shelves that are accessible to all employees. Restaurant employees should also be encouraged to share heavy loads or take multiple trips. [7]

Burns and scalds are likely to happen around heat and fire, both of which are present in a restaurant kitchen. Hot liquids, such as boiling water and hot oil, can also cause burn-related restaurant workplace injuries. Stoves should always be turned off in a restaurant kitchen when not in use, and the handles of pots and pans should be turned inward, away from the edge of the stove, to prevent them from being bumped or flipped over. By taking reasonable precautions, the risk of workplace injuries in restaurants can be reduced significantly. [8]

[1] https://nypost.com/2020/02/06/pizza-sent-a-record-number-of-americans-to-the-er-in-2018

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.cbc.ca/news/choking-hazard-in-mini-cup-jelly-products-federal-food-agency-warns-1.702824

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2013/mar/25/dangerous-dining-food-related-injuries

[5] https://www.fsrmagazine.com/slideshows/4-common-restaurant-injuries-and-how-avoid-them

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

Benson and Bingham