Epidemiological studies indicate an increased risk of esophageal cancer from the consumption of very hot foods and beverages. The contact time and the contact temperature are decisive for the risk of injury. However, measuring the contact temperature is not easy in practice. In the present study, a numerical simulation based on the solution of the heat conduction equation was initially used to investigate whether and for what period of time a constant contact temperature is to be expected under oral conditions. For small food samples (e.g., cooked potatoes) in contact with the tongue, the simulation results in constant contact temperatures of up to 10 s before cooling depending on thickness. Hot beverages, which spread as a thin film and thereby increase their surface area, can therefore be consumed at higher temperatures than solid foods. Furthermore, orientating measurements with a “measuring spoon” determined the contact temperature of 46.5 °C considered to be just comfortable for any period >10 s and about 48 °C for periods of less than 10 s The course of the contact temperatures determined in the experiment over time allows the corresponding threshold values of consumption temperatures for various hot foods to be calculated. In view of the fact that the contact temperature is obviously the determining factor for the risk of injury from burns in the oral cavity in addition to the contact time, it makes sense to reference threshold values to the contact temperature rather than to the surface or consumption temperature of a food product, which is current customary practice. If this contact temperature is defined as a threshold value, the surface or consumption temperature for any other food can be calculated.
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