Diacetyl hits the big time

It’s well known that occupational exposure to various pollutants including pesticides, manufacturing raw materials, and in this case, flavoring agents, is a serious problem affecting millions of factory and farm workers all over the world.

Which is why it is interesting when one case of a man contracting an illness possibly linked to at-home diacetyl exposure makes much more splashy news than the well documented cases of many workers dying of such exposure at work. It is unfortunate, but people working at factories and in farms are somehow expected to handle higher levels of exposure and risk. The assumption is that they are protected by agencies such as OSHA, and that they will provided with protective wear, etc. But, when the agencies drop the ball on protecting workers, it takes an “escape” of the incident into the ambient realm for the news agencies to pick it up as a headline.

I guess the good thing now is that this diacetyl issue is blown open, and should result in reform, because alternatives are available.

Doctor Links a Man’s Illness to a Microwave Popcorn Habit – New York Times

A fondness for microwave buttered popcorn may have led a 53-year-old Colorado man to develop a serious lung condition that until now has been found only in people working in popcorn plants.

Lung specialists and even a top industry official say the case, the first of its kind, raises serious concerns about the safety of microwave butter-flavored popcorn.

“We’ve all been working on the workplace safety side of this, but the potential for consumer exposure is very concerning,” said John B. Hallagan, general counsel for the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association of the United States, a trade association of companies that make butter flavorings for popcorn producers. “Are there other cases out there? There could be.”

A spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration said that the agency was considering the case as part of a review of the safety of diacetyl, which adds the buttery taste to many microwave popcorns, including Orville Redenbacher and Act II.

Meanwhile, ConAgra, the biggest manufacturer of popcorn, announces plans to drop diacetyl at some undetermined “later date”. Weird, their website’s currently down!

1 comment for “Diacetyl hits the big time

  1. September 13, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    Weaver Popcorn Company has ALREADY taken diacetyl out of the flavoring in its microwave popcorn brands, Pop Weaver, sold at mass market retailers, discount stores and select grocery stores nationwide; and Trail’s End, sold through Boy Scout councils. People concerned about diacetyl have an option available now on store shelves.