At least two food companies that until recently used an artificial butter flavoring agent in their microwavable popcorn products have voluntarily stopped doing so and now the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is taking action on the controversial chemical, diacetyl.
Worker exposure to diacetyl has been linked to a serious lung condition called bronchiolitis obliterans or “popcorn lung.”
OSHA Administrator Edwin Foulke Jr. says his agency will seek information and guidance from all stakeholders to get the best information on the health effects of exposure to diacetyl and then initiate rulemaking to protect workers.
According to OSHA, engineering and work practice controls are the primary methods for controlling exposures in the workplace. They include local exhaust and general dilution ventilation to remove contaminants, isolation of the process or sources, and restricted access to areas where hazardous materials are used and stored.
The Hazard Communication Guidance alerts employers, workers, manufacturers and importers about new information related to the health hazards associated with diacetyl and food flavorings containing this chemical. It also provides guidance on how to develop material safety data sheets (MSDSs) and hazard warning labels to be in compliance with OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard.
In addition, a Safety and Health Information Bulletin (SHIB) provides information on possible health effects linked to diacetyl exposure in microwave popcorn processing plants. It also covers exposure controls that may be used, along with information on applicable OSHA standards.