During debate in the House of Lords, Labour peer Lord Harrison has called for pressure to be put on food manufacturers to change the “inherently unsafe” design of corned beef cans.

“There is a real problem about corned beef cans,” junior industry minister Lord Sainsbury of Turville, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying. “They have this particular trapezoidal shape and also a particular key kind of ring.”

He added, however, that the number of injuries from corned beef cans was in decline, from around 8,700 injuries before 1997 to around 3,000 per year at the moment.

“The Department of Trade and Industry has done much work on this issue in giving further instructions, and also special coatings in the cans which enable you to get the corned beef out easier,” said Sainsbury, former chairman of UK supermarket chain J. Sainsbury.

He added that it was not possible to protect the British public from all household risks – 73 accidents a year are caused by toothpaste and 823 by letters and envelopes.