Diacetyl Popcorn Worker Lawsuit Filed over Health Problems

A complaint has been filed by six women who say they were exposed to the food additive diacetyl while working at an Illinois popcorn manufacturer, which caused them to suffer a variety of ailments. 

The popcorn lung lawsuits were filed by Helen Bahre, Kelly Brown, Diana Cole, Sabrina Falkenberry, Michelle Richards and Brenda Warchol on October 3 in St. Clair County Circuit Court in Illinois. The women allege they were exposed to the substance while working at facilities in Illinois that make popcorn and other food products.

Diacetyl was used for years to give microwave popcorn its buttery smell before it was linked to lung disease known as bronchiolitis obliterans, commonly referred to as popcorn lung.

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Popcorn Lung Lawsuits

Lawsuits over lung disease linked to microwave popcorn butter flavoring chemical.


The lawsuit encompasses a long list of defendants, including Berje, Centrome, Chemtura Corporation, Consumers Flavoring Extract Co., DSM Food Specialties, Flavor Concepts, Fona International, Frutarom USA, Givaudan Flavor Corporation, International Flavors and Frangrances, Kerry, O’Laughlin Industries, Penta Manufacturing, Phoenix Essantial Oils and Aromas, Sethness-Greenleaf, Sigma-Aldrich Corporation, Virginia Dare Extract and Wild Flavors.

The plaintiffs allege that they have suffered popcorn lung, lung cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other respiratory and pulmonary ailments as a result of diacetyl exposure. They accuse the manufacturers of failing to warn workers about the risks associated with exposure to the chemical, and of failing to provide for the safety of workers who might be exposed to the chemical.

The microwave popcorn industry turned away from the additive once its links to popcorn lung disease became widely recognized and have used a variety of substitutes to duplicate its effects.

Popcorn lung disease is characterized by the scarring and inflammation of small airways, known as bronchioles, which leads to diminished lung capacity and breathing problems. The disease is irreversible and severe cases may require lung transplants and can lead to death.

More than 300 popcorn lung disease lawsuits have been filed nationwide, with most of those coming from employees of popcorn manufacturers. However, a growing number of popcorn consumers have been diagnosed with the disease and have filed lawsuits against companies that manufactured or used the flavoring.


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