From the Department of Yikes!

120pxpopcorn02For 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:

Jocelyn,

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.

Peggy Westenhofer
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.

Sincerely,
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.

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NYT Article “Trying to Connect the Dinner Plate to Climate Change”

Just wanted to take a moment to point out this article in the New York Times, which discusses animal rights groups making the most of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s report from last November that found that raising animals for meat contributes more to global warming than does transportation.  The report, "Livestock’s Long Shadow – Environmental Issues and Options," can be found via that link, along with a story summarizing it. 

The ecology of a plant-based diet has long been my major reason for eating herbivorously.  I think the report speaks for itself so I don’t have a lot of editorializing to do here – I’ll just say this: the great thing is that all our choices – whether they are absolutes, like being a vegetarian, being part of a compact or a non-car owner – or matters of degree, like the decision to choose meatless meals more frequently, buy less stuff, or ride a bike more often – make an impact. 

President’s Cancer Panel Releases Report That Supports Many Things I Believe and Espouse, Especially that It Is Unnecessarily Difficult to Have a Healthy Lifestyle in U.S.; Manages To Sound More Reasonable About It Than My Relentlessly Idealistic Self

Maybe it’s because they have Lance Armstrong on their panel that people take them seriously.

Anyhow, the report says the government:

  • "(should) require the elimination of unhealthy foods from school breakfast and lunch programs"
  • "must cease being a purveyor of unhealthy foods that lead to disease and increased health care costs."

They follow that up by putting forth crazy ideas like this (p. 106 of the report, available here – download the Annual Report for 2006-7.  A little light government report reading for the weekend.  Perfect for the beach.):

  • The leadership of this nation must summon the political will to coordinate U.S. agricultural subsidy and public health policy related to diet and nutrition to improve the food supply and help ensure that all people have access to affordable, healthy food.