Diacetyl: an Update

Last month, companies were scrambling to respond to sudden widespread public interest in diacetyl following the first reported case of popcorn lung in a consumer. The list of brands going diacetyl-free now includes Orville Redenbacher and Pop Secret. In total to date, more than 80% of the US microwave popcorn market has vowed to drop diacetyl from its products. (Timelines vary widely from company to company.)

As with all things, this crisis has created opportunities for the flavor industry. Ottens Flavors was previously reported to be working on reformulations with Weaver Popcorn Co. Inc. And now Wild Flavors has launched diacetyl-free and no-added-diacetyl flavors that purportedly impart the desired butter character, mouthfeel and impact in snack, bakery, sauce, savory and culinary applications. 

Meanwhile, in the US House of Representatives, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey helped pass legislation that would require OSHA to set an “emergency standard” (within 90 days) for occupational exposure to diacetyl, and a final standard within two years. At the same time, the industry and the mainstream media await the release of the US Environmental Protection Agency report titled “Emissions from Cooking Microwave Popcorn.”

In the interim, a representative from the Center for Science in the Public Interest recently injected a little perspective into consumers’ diacetyl fears, noting that trans fat consumption is a vastly larger (and realistic) risk to the public’s health compared to diacetyl.

For more information, visit the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association’s “Respiratory Health and Safety in the Flavor Manufacturing Workplace” page at www.femaflavor.org/html/public/respiratory_safety.html.

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