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December 16, 1998

Hot Butter and Cheese Dispensers at the Movie Theater: A Real Sizzler?

JAMA. 1998;280(23):1994. doi:10-1001/pubs.JAMA-ISSN-0098-7484-280-23-jbk1216

To the Editor.—I encountered a new public health hazard in New York, NY, and Miami, Fla, when I took my 6-year-old son to movie theaters owned by different national chains. I noted a new customer "convenience"—self-service hot butter-flavored and cheese-flavored toppings in electrically heated metal dispensers. Using these dispensers anyone can pump hot liquid onto their popcorn, nachos, or person.

As a plastic surgeon who treats burn patients, I am intimately familiar with the potential injury that can occur to children, shorter persons, or people in wheelchairs from highly viscous fluids and hot metal containers. Because of their viscosity, the hot toppings remain in contact with skin and clothing for a longer time than plain hot water would. Water heated to 70°C (158°F) causes a deep burn in less than 1 second of contact with human forearm skin.1