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Woman Scalded By Tea Wants Regulation Of Hot Drinks

Various Tim Horton Inc. coffee and teas are displayed for sale at a restaurant in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Various Tim Horton Inc. coffee and teas are displayed for sale at a restaurant in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Winnipeg woman who was scalded by a cup of Tim Hortons tea is demanding new rules for how hot beverages should be served at restaurants.

Lisa Marchant suffered second- and third-degree burns on her left side after an extra-large cup of green tea spilled on her lap following a minor car accident in February.

"It just stops your life. I'm still not back," she told CBC News in an interview.

"Her skin came off just like a piece of loose leaf, and it was quite horrendous. I had never seen anything like that before," said her mother, Pearl Marchant.

There are currently no regulations governing the temperatures of hot beverages at restaurants — something the Marchants wants to see.

While Lisa Marchant has not filed a lawsuit against Tim Hortons, she wants to see governments develop safe beverage temperature rules.

"We all have to be careful; that's common sense. But I think … it is too hot. It should be lowered. I couldn't imagine my burn on a baby's face," she said.

When asked what she thinks Tim Hortons should do, she said, "Come up to the plate and say, 'Our water is too hot and we need to look at this in a safety aspect.'"

'Horrendous pain'

Marchant said she ordered the green tea from a Tim Hortons drive-thru location in northwest Winnipeg on Feb. 24.

She put the tea in the cup holder of the car her former husband, Scott Kilborn, was driving while they were picking up their daughter from a friend's place.

Shortly after leaving the drive-thru window, the vehicle collided with another car at an intersection.

"When that happened, the lid fell off of the tea and fell on Lisa's left lap, it just kind of poured out," said Kilborn.

"Lisa doesn't feel on the left side very well because of her disability, so for her to scream, it has to be intense," he added, referring to the cerebral palsy Marchant has on that side.

Recalled Marchant: "I remember something spilling on me and it wasn't intense. And then as it came on — I guess, it [was] soaking through more — then I felt it. And then I started screaming."

"I didn't even know we were in an accident. It was horrendous pain."

Third-degree burn

She suffered a third-degree burn to nearly half of the total burn area, which covers a majority of her left hip, left buttock and upper leg.

Marchant said medical experts told her the tea must have been around 88 C (190 F) to cause the burns she had.

According to the U.S.-based Burn Foundation, water at 69 C (156 F) is already hot enough to cause a third-degree burn in just one second.

Even liquids that are 66 C can scald people in seconds, said Frances MacDougall, a burn unit nurse at the B.C. Children's Hospital in Vancouver.

MacDougall said the issue of hot beverages is a big problem, with children and seniors most vulnerable to serious harm.

"There needs to be some accountability and responsibility on the part of industry to realize that their products can be causing damage or harm to their client," she said.

How hot is that drink?

Marchant shared her experience as the CBC News I-Team conducted some tests to see how hot beverages can be at common Winnipeg coffee chains.

The I-Team took the temperatures of tea and coffee at a total of 15 Tim Hortons, Starbucks, Robin's Donuts and McDonald's drive-thru locations.

It found that coffee from those locations ranged between 71 C and 81 C. Tea temperatures ranged between 81 C and 89 C.

The hottest tea the I-Team found came from a McDonald's in south Winnipeg, with a temperature of 89.4 C.

McDonald's and Robin's Donuts did not return CBC News' requests for comment, while Starbucks says it is concerned about safety.

"All hot beverages need to be handled with care. Temperatures can vary but handling should always be the same," a Starbucks spokesperson said.

"We want a careful hand off when serving, we provide sleeves for the cups and sometimes double cup to make handling the cup more manageable, and we provide lids at hand off bars and condiment bars to cover the beverage as soon as customers have customized it."

Expense claim denied

Marchant, who is self-employed, filed a claim with Tim Hortons in the hopes it would assist her in covering the costs of her medical supplies.

But a letter from ClaimsPro, the adjustor for the coffee chain, states: "Our investigation has found no liability on our insured [Tim Hortons]. As such we are respectfully denying your request for compensation."

A spokesperson for Tim Hortons told CBC News the company is "very sorry to hear" about Marchant's incident.

Tim Hortons tea is served at a temperature that follows the Canadian Tea Association's best practices to achieve "optimal flavour," the spokesperson said.

According to the association's website, tea should be prepared at temperatures ranging between 85 C for white tea and 100 C for black and herbal teas.

The association also calls for those teas to steep for between one and six minutes, depending on the type of tea.

Tim Hortons did not comment on what temperature a beverage should be before it's considered safe enough to give to customers.

(Source: Tea Association of Canada)

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