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Diacetyl May Cause Popcorn Lung in Consumers

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It appears that consumers are being sickened with “Popcorn Lung“, a disease that once was thought limited to workers in the snack food industry. Popcorn Lung, or Bronchiolitis obliterans, has been associated with diacetyl, a food additive used to give foods like microwave popcorn a buttery flavor.

Some of the larger microwave popcorn manufacturers, such as ConAgra, have stopped using diacetyl. But the chemical is still used in thousands of products, including microwave popcorn, frozen foods, cake mixes and butter-flavored cooking oils. Unfortunately, it is not often listed on ingredient labels, so there is no way for consumers to protect themselves from exposure.

In 2007, a Colorado man named Wayne Watson became the first consumer to be diagnosed with Popcorn Lung. He had never worked around diacetyl, but he did have a decade-long, 2-bag-a-day microwave popcorn habit.

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has been reviewing diacetyl since 2007, but has yet to take any regulatory action. The agency hasn’t indicated when it will finish its diacetyl review and issue findings.

Since the link between diacetyl and Popcorn Lung was established, hundreds of stricken snack industry workers have filed lawsuits against flavorings manufacturers. According to the Associated Press, more than 300 other cases are pending around the country, and verdicts as high as $20 million have been awarded in previous cases. Consumers stricken with the disease have also filed Popcorn Lung lawsuits.

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