Sunday, September 9, 2007

Microwave Popcorn to Omit a Risky Chemical

September 6, 2007
Microwave Popcorn to Omit a Risky Chemical

OMAHA, Neb. Sept. 5 (AP) — Four of the nation’s biggest microwave popcorn makers are working to remove a flavoring chemical from their products linked to a lung ailment in popcorn plant workers while reassuring consumers about the safety of the snack.

Several of the companies discussed their plans Wednesday, a day after a leading lung research hospital warned that consumers also might be in danger from the buttery flavoring diacetyl.

The three companies that sell Orville Redenbacher, Act II, Pop Secret and Jolly Time microwave popcorn said they planned to change the recipes for their butter-flavored microwave popcorn to remove diacetyl.

Diacetyl has been linked to cases of bronchiolitis obliterans, a rare life-threatening disease often called popcorn lung.

ConAgra Foods Inc., General Mills and the American Pop Corn Company all promised to make the change because of safety concerns. Together those companies accounted for more than 80 percent of the market for microwave popcorn over the last 12 months, according to the research firm Information Resources Inc.

Last week, another popcorn manufacturer, the Weaver Popcorn Company of Indianapolis, said it would replace the butter flavoring ingredient because of consumer concern.

A pulmonary specialist at the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver had written to federal agencies to say doctors there believed they had the first case of a consumer who had developed lung disease from the fumes of making microwave popcorn several times a day for years, according to reports Tuesday.

Dr. Cecile Rose sent the letter to federal health officials in July.

ConAgra, which makes Orville Redenbacher and Act II popcorn, said it would make the change over the next year.

General Mills, which sells but does not make Pop Secret popcorn, said it planned to phase out diacetyl soon, but a company spokesman, Tom Forsythe, said he was not sure how quickly that could be done.

A spokeswoman for American Pop Corn, which makes Jolly Time, said the company had been working on a new recipe without diacetyl for several months.

The first government study of fumes produced by microwave popcorn at home is to be published as soon as this month, the Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday.

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