Microwave popcorn: (still) bad for you

Two years ago, Orville Redenbacher’s iconic company announced in weeks of TV ads that their microwave popcorn was now free of diacetyl.

According to Senior Public Health correspondent Andrew Schneider‘s report in Sphere, diacetyl is the chemical in that disgusting artificial butter flavouring that has been blamed for sickening hundreds of workers, killing a handful, and destroying the lungs of at least three microwave popcorn consumers with what’s been termed “popcorn lung”.

The disease from exposure to diacetyl — bronchiolitis obliterans — is debilitating and potentially fatal.

And because it irreversibly destroys the small airways in the lung, the only hope for many victims is a single or double lung transplant. Almost every other popcorn maker followed the lead of Orville’s parent company, ConAgra Foods, Inc.

But now, health investigators are reporting that the “new, safer, butter substitutes” used in microwave popcorn and other foods can be as toxic as what they replaced.

Even John Hallagan, lawyer for the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association, confirms that diacetyl substitutes are actually just another form of diacetyl. Dr. Daniel Morgan of the Respiratory Toxicology Group at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences said he has found the same danger in one of the principle components of the butter substitute, a concoction called 2,3-pentanedione. Dr. Morgan said in the Sphere interview:

“It caused the same injuries in test animals as diacetyl, and our preliminary data indicates the toxicity is close to identical.” Continue reading