Legislation for Regulating Diacetyl, the Artificial Butter Flavoring

Leading the nation in recognizing the health dangers of diacetyl, on June 4, 2007 the California State Assembly approved Assembly Bill 514 (Lieber, D-San Jose) prohibiting the use of this substance in the workplace.

Diacetyl is a widely used artificial butter flavoring agent predominant in the microwave popcorn industry. Dozens of workers in the industry are known to have developed bronchiolitis obliterans, the debilitating lung disease nicknamed the popcorn workers lungs.

David Michaels, in his post “Congress May Force OSHA to Do Its Job (on Diacetyl at least)“, provides a consise summary and time-line of reported health injury incidents in which diacetyl is suspect.

Congress has finally acted on this issue. Yesterday, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey introduced legislation to force OSHA to issue standards for occupational exposure to diacetyl.

Woolsey’s legislation would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue an interim final standard within 90 days to minimize workers’ exposure to diacetyl in popcorn and flavor manufacturing plants. Employers would be required to develop a written exposure control plan that would use engineering controls and respirators to protect workers, and to conduct medical monitoring to determine whether workers’ health continued to be harmed. The bill would require OSHA to issue a final rule within two years covering all workplaces where workers are exposed to diacetyl.