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Diacetyl is an organic compound found in foods and additives that is used for dairy flavoring. Diacetyl is also found in brown flavors, such as caramel, butterscotch, and other sweeteners. Foods containing diacetyl can be found in a variety of products but is most commonly associated with popcorn because of the substance’s connection to “popcorn-lung” — Bronchiolitis obliterans.
While diacetyl can be found naturally in some foods, it is most common in processed food products that contain flavoring additives.
Common Foods Containing Diacetyl
Diacetyl is most prevalent in processed foods that contain butter flavoring. It is used as a flavoring agent in butter, butter sprays, margarine, shortening, oil, oil sprays and other butter flavored substances. If a product is advertised as having “buttery flavor,” then that product likely contains diacetyl. These products commonly include:
Diacetyl is also used as a brown flavor sweetening additive in products such as:
Along with processed foods, diacetyl occurs naturally in some foods and beverages. Foods containing diacetyl that occurs naturally include:
Are Food Containing Diacetyl Safe to Consume?
Diacetyl poses a greater risk of toxicity when it is heated. The likelihood of adverse health risks associated with diacetyl – such as popcorn lung — are therefore increased if a product is heated prior to consumption.
Foods and beverages containing diacetyl are not inherently dangerous to consume if they are not heated. It is important to note, however, that heating products containing diacetyl trigger a chemical reaction that releases the dangerous compound into the air as a more dangerous vaporous form. While consuming diacetyl is not a major health risk, inhaling diacetyl vapors is very dangerous. Diacetyl vapor inhalation is linked to an array of pulmonary complications, including popcorn lung.
If you are heating a product that contains diacetyl — such as microwave popcorn, coffee, hot-cocoa – ensure that the product has cooled down before consuming it. Distance yourself from the product while it is heating up, and avoid prolonged exposure to diacetyl vapors.
About popcorn, is it all popcorn or is it popcorn that has added flavoring? I make popcorn a couple of times a week, and I will add a cajun seasoning and turmeric. No butter ever
Posted by Rodney on Mon Feb 26 2018 10:58am
Rodney, it is popcorn with added flavoring.
Posted by Lindsey Andrews on Mon Feb 26 2018 11:40am
Is there anything worth eating that does not contain diacetyl? Why do these products not contain warnings? The FDA is supposed to warn about harmful food products
Posted by PJ Colella on Fri Nov 23 2018 4:09pm
The FDA collects and evaluates products based on the reports they receive from consumers and doctors. The best thing you can do in this type of situation is to report any adverse side effects. More information can be found on our blog: Report an Injury or Side Effect.
Posted by Lindsey Andrews on Tue Dec 18 2018 3:00pm
Just read an article regarding DIPCETYL (buttery flavoring). It effects you memory!
Posted by Sam Longwell on Wed Nov 28 2018 2:38pm
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