Diacetyl is both a man-made chemical compound and something that occurs naturally in certain foods or food processes. Diacetyl is used to mimic the taste, texture, and smell of butter. In the flavoring industry, it is used as an ingredient, or component part, of usually complex flavoring “recipes” used to artificially flavor foods, beverages, and so-called vaping juice or e-juice. Any processed flavoring that has a buttery-note, or buttery taste, as part of its flavor profile likely contains diacetyl. Even if that product is labeled as being “naturally flavored” it could still contain diacetyl.
Even though the human health risk of diacetyl has been known for decades there is no current requirement that a company indicates on a box or label, when a product contains diacetyl.
“Generally Recognized as Safe” Refers to Ingestion Only.
While the FDA does classify diacetyl as “GRAS” or “Generally Recognized As Safe” it is important to understand that this classification refers only to the question of the safety of ingestion. The FDA is merely answering the question “is something safe to eat”? This is a very different question than “is it safe to inhale”?
Further, it is important to understand that the “GRAS” system was developed by the main flavoring industry trade group, the Flavor & Extracts Manufacturers Association. The Flavor & Extracts Manufacturers Association serves as an advocate for the flavor manufacturers and suppliers and it is completely self-policed.
According to FEMA’s website,
The FEMA Expert Panel only evaluates substances for GRAS status that are used to formulate flavors to be added to human foods. The Expert Panel does not evaluate food ingredients with functions other than flavoring nor does it evaluate flavorings for use in products other than human food. For example, the Expert Panel does not evaluate flavor ingredients for use in tobacco products, e-cigarettes, or other products that involve routes of exposure other than ingestion.
Popcorn lung Lawyers, private groups, state government, and health agencies, as well as other medical professionals, have tried for years to raise public awareness of the dangers of this chemical.