Philadelphia The next burning issue in the courtrooms of America may be a breakfast food left in the toaster too long.
A New Jersey couple is suing the Kellogg Co. for $100,000 over a house fire they say was caused by a flaming Pop-Tart.
Brenda J. Hurff put a cherry Pop-Tart in the toaster and then left the house to drive her children to preschool, according to the Hurffs' attorney, Mauro C. Casci. The lawsuit was filed last week.
When Hurff returned home 10 to 20 minutes later, smoke was pouring from the house and firefighters were on the scene, according to Casci.
"She had put it in the toaster and apparently forgot about it," Casci said. "I never thought a Pop-Tart could turn into a blowtorch."
Asked whether the preserve-filled pastry was stuck in the toaster: "Did it pop, did it not pop," Casci said Friday, "who knows?"
The suit also names Black & Decker, the maker of the pop-up toaster. A company spokeswoman said there would be no comment until this week.
Dick Lovell, a spokesman for the Battle Creek, Mich., cereal maker, would not comment on the case except to say: "Pop-Tarts are safe and do not cause fires."
Fire Chief John Hoffman said the cause of the July 11, 2000, fire was listed as "unattended food." The fire caused $100,000 in damage, Hoffman said.
Pop-Tarts have a caution advisory on the box, warning customers not to "leave the toaster appliance unattended due to possible risk of fire."
The pastries have been the subject of a lawsuit before.
In 1995, Kellogg's paid $2,400 to a Springfield, Ohio, man who claimed that a fire started from a Pop-Tart had damaged his home.
At the time, the man's lawyer said he was considering calling as a witness Dave Barry, the syndicated humor columnist, who wrote in 1993 that he was able to ignite a pair of strawberry Pop-Tarts by putting them in a toaster and holding the lever down for about six minutes.
Hoffman said that it didn't surprise him that a flaming Pop-Tart may have caused a fire.
"Go get a Pop-Tart and try it yourself," Hoffman said. "Just do it safely."