A man from Denver, Wayne Watson, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Tuesday claiming injury from the ingredient used for artificial butter flavoring in microwave popcorn. Watson is believed to be one of the only consumers to develop the condition “popcorn lung” from eating microwave popcorn on a daily basis.
Doctors from National Jewish Hospital initially diagnosed Watson with the condition in 2007. “Popcorn lung” is said to be linked to the flavor ingredient, diacetyl.
In December of 2007, the nation’s four largest makers of microwave popcorn stated that they have removed a flavoring chemical that has been linked to a lung ailment in popcorn plant workers from their products.
The Weaver Popcorn Company, ConAgra Foods Inc., General Mills Inc., and the American Pop Corn Co. have all promised to change their microwave popcorn recipes by January 2008. These companies sell Orville Redenbacher, Act II, Pop Secret and Jolly Time microwave popcorn.
The FDA has approved the use of diacetyl as a flavor ingredient and can be found naturally in butter, cheese and fruits.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has increased their inspections of microwave popcorn plants that use diacetyl. The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill in the fall that would limit worker exposure to the chemical at microwave popcorn plants.
There have been more than 500 lawsuits against the companies that produce or use the butter flavoring with the chemical. $50 million has been awarded in verdicts and another 100 cases have been settled for around tens of millions of dollars.