As It Happens

French watchdog says it's not surprising a whipped cream canister killed Instagram star

Rebecca Burger died after a whipped cream canister struck her in the heart — and a French consumer watchdog group says they've warning about this product for years.
Rebecca Burger, an Instagram fitness star, died after a whipped cream canister exploded. (@rebeccablikes/Instagram)
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story transcript

The update on Instagram came as a shock to Rebecca Burger's thousands of followers.

The French fitness Instagram celebrity's latest post came from her family, and it showed a photo of a whipped cream cannister, with the caption: "Here is an example of the whipped cream container that exploded and struck Rebecca's chest, resulting in her death."

A picture of a whipped cream canister was posted to Rebecca's Instagram after her death. (Rebecca Burger/ @rebeccablikes)

It was a freak accident, her family says. But one French consumer watchdog group says Burger's injury and death comes as no surprise. The group has been sounding the alarm about defective whipped cream cannisters for years. 

Benjamin Douriez, deputy editor of 60 Millions de Consummateurs, spoke with As It Happens host Carol Off about why he has been raising red flags whipped cream containers. Here is part of their conversation. 

Carol Off: How do you think that a whipped cream container was able to kill a woman?

Benjamin Douriez is the deputy editor of "60 Millions de Consummateur". (Benjamin Douriez)

Benjamin Douriez: Well, we don't have specific details on how it happened in this specific case, but the one thing we know, and we know it from the local police authority, we know that the device exploded and hit her in the chest near the heart.

I have to say that we weren't that surprised that this device could kill someone because it's a topic we [have] worked on [for] several years. And we heard of several incidents with injuries, so we feared that one day this kind of device could kill someone.

CO: So when we talk about a whipped cream canister, this isn't the kind of stuff that we get in the supermarket. Describe this cannister that she was probably using.

BD: It's a device that you use when you want to do the whipped cream yourself. So it's a device, you don't buy it in the grocery store.

It works with pressure, you put some gas inside so that you can have whipped cream.  

CO: And are all these kinds of pressurized whipped cream canisters a problem, or defective in this way?

BD: I think that's really a safety reason for consumers for two reasons. There are some models of canisters that are not safe, so they've been recalled ... but most people don't know that.

The second reason is that even if the product is safe, it's not that easy to use properly. And if you don't use it properly, there's risk that it might explode.

CO: How does it explode, or why does it explode?

BD: It can explode if the product is not safe enough. For example, several have plastic heads and maybe the plastic is not safe enough because this kind of device works with a lot of pressure inside. So almost all the products that were recalled for safety reasons has plastic heads, so maybe they aren't well conceived to work with that kind of pressure.

Even if the device is well conceived, if you don't use it properly there is still a risk.

CO: This is the first death that we know of whipped cream canisters. Do you know of any other injuries?

BD: That's the first death we've heard of. But [in] five years, we had a lot of people telling us that they had some incidents with that kind of device.

We had 60 incidents with sometimes serious injuries ... people with broken wrists, broken teeth. We had one woman who lost her eye. She lost her eye because it exploded and hit her in the eye. 

CO:  Are they all like that? You said there's been a recall of some of them. Was that of all of the ones that are like this or is there a particular brand or era of these productions?

BD: There are I think 15 brands that recalled their product.

The question now is: Is it really a product that should be on sale for the general public? 

CO: Lots of people just don't know how to use them properly?

BD: When you go on the Internet, or you see some video that sometimes tells you to do dangerous stuff with that kind of device. So that's a real problem because some people can put themselves in danger if they don't do things properly.

CO: What kind of things do people do with them?

BD: For example people put [too much gas in it]. You are to put one [gas charger] inside, not two. Some people put two because they think the whipped cream will come out better, but actually it's dangerous.

CO: There is an Instagram posting from the family of this young woman, from Rebecca Burger's family. They're saying: "Do not use this kind of utensil in your home! Several tens of thousands of defective devices are still in circulation." Do you think that warning that they are putting out should be a bit more broadly circulated?

BD:  It's true that maybe thousands, maybe tens of thousands of French people have dangerous devices in their home and they just don't know it. So it's important to warn them.   

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For more, listen to our conversation with Benjamin Douriez.

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