For those of you who have been following the stories about lung injuries from diacetyl suffered by workers at popcorn plants ("Popcorn Worker’s Lung" – and it’s not funny; this has killed people), here’s the first report of a consumer with the same illness, which has been at least correlated to his twice-a-day microwave popcorn habit.
Apparently he liked the smell of the stuff so well that he would open the bag and take a big deep whiff of the escaping steam, inhaling diacetyl each time.
The story, from the New York Times, also notes that despite it being the likely cause of his severe shortness of breath, the man was "really upset he couldn’t have it anymore"…but since breaking the twice-daily popcorn habit, has lost 60 lbs.
Maybe somebody could teach him how to make it the old-fashioned way on the stove like I do? I haven’t eaten microwave popcorn in at least a decade; I started avoiding trans fats in the mid-90s and all of them were loaded with hydrogenated oil back then (pre-Newman’s Own with tropical oil) and it had come to the point where the fake-butter (diacetyl) smell gave me the heebie-jeebies anyway.
Though I use plain old non-microwave popcorn, for those of you who are landing here with Google searches about Newman’s Own and diacetyl, I wrote to Newman’s Own Organics to ask them if their "natural butter flavor" contained the chemical, and here is their helpful reply:
Diacetyl is not added to any of Newman’s Own Organics varieties of Pop’s Corn, however, it is a naturally occurring substance found in butter in miniscule amounts. I hope you find this helpful.
Director of Customer Relations
Newman’s Own Organics
Then I wrote to Newman’s Own, at a commenter’s prompting, about regular (not organic) Newman’s Own microwave popcorn, and here’s the reply I received:
Dear Ms. (my last name),
Shuster Laboratories, Inc. is a technical consulting organization retained by Newman’s Own, Inc. to provide technical and quality assurance services.
Currently, diacetyl is a component of butter that is in the flavor. It is a potential hazard in concentrated form as inhalant to workers in manufacturing. All safety precautions are in place at Newman’s Own manufacturing facilities. Newman’ Own is working to remove the diacetyl from the popcorn. We hope you find this information helpful.
Newman’s Own Customer Service Team
So there you have it: Newman’s Own Organics microwave popcorn is currently diacetyl free (except for the minute amount naturally occurring), Newman’s Own microwave popcorn is in the process of going diacetyl free but is not there as of this September 9, 2007.