Restaurant Patron Suffers Burn Injuries From Excessively Hot Drink

    Restaurant ExpertThis case involves a 34-year-old man in Houston, Texas who ordered a cup of green tea at a sushi restaurant. The server placed the cup of hot tea down in front of the man while his back was turned. Upon turning around, the man knocked the tea over, spilling it into his lap. The spill caused the man severe burns on his thighs. The restaurant used an industrial coffee maker which heated the water to around 200 degrees. It was alleged that the restaurant in question was serving its hot beverages at an unsafe temperature for consumption. An expert in restaurant safety was sought to investigate the diner’s practices determine whether or not they met industry standards.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • 1. Please describe your background as it relates to restaurant safety.
    • 2. What is the acceptable temperature for hot drinks served in open containers?

    Expert Witness Response E-009291

    I have been in the food business 47+ years. For the past 19 years, I have taught food safety classes using the ServSafe program. The restaurant industry frequently serves coffee and tea at temperatures in excess of 160 F, which according to the America Burn Association, is sufficiently hot enough to cause 2nd and 3rd degree burns in less than a second. There is some evidence to suggest that the customer preferred serving temperatures for hot beverages is in the range of 136 F, which would improve guest satisfaction and safety. I was recently involved in a case involving a plaintiff who alleged that they suffered 2nd-degree burns and permanent scarring as a result of overly hot coffee and improper seating of the lid on the to-go cup. I provided a report related to the appropriateness of the restaurant’s actions and a bit of experimental research I did with other units of the chain. I also researched the subject both online in the popular press and scientific papers.

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