Monday, March 31, 2008

Is Popcorn a Health Hazard?

tidbits that tantalizeIt's Tasty - But, Is It Safe?

Perfect. With March Madness upon us, what could be better than a bag of buttery microwave popcorn and a seat in front of the TV? Games, lots and lots of games, should easily give you the chance to try all seven new buttery flavors of your favorite snack. But...

What if that wonderful treat is toxic?

Experts with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health, say that may be the case. The ingredient used to produce the buttery flavor, diacetyl, has been tied to lung disease in factory workers who manufacture microwave popcorn. Diacetyl has been linked to "Popcorn Workers Lung," a life-threatening illness.

The hazard exists primarily in factories that produce the popcorn. Workers who breathe the toxic diacetyl fumes are at risk. Bronchiolitis Obliterans (Popcorn Workers Lung) is an obstructive lung disease, in which the bronchioles, or airway branches, are blocked by fibrous tissue growth. The disease is irreversible, and the only treatment is a lung transplant.

There is a report of one consumer developing this disease: a man who consumed several bags of buttery microwave popcorn each day for 15 years.

Several U.S. popcorn makers, including ConAgra, General Mills and American Popcorn Co., have taken steps to remove diacetyl from their process. Congress is working on legislation to restrict the levels of diacetyl to which workers may be exposed.

So, while the risk at the consumer level appears to be slight, do yourself a favor. Buy some popcorn kernels and make your own "from scratch" popcorn. Yes, it's a radical idea - homemade food...

To read more about the report, see this from Reuters. To learn more about eating whole, healthy foods, see this from The World's Healthiest Foods.


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