Foods Containing Diacetyl Pose Threat to Consumers


foods containing diacetyl

Diacetyl is an organic compound found in foods and additives that are 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:

  • Popcorn
  • Potato chips
  • Crackers
  • Corn chips


Diacetyl is also used as a brown flavor sweetening additive in products such as:

  • Chocolate
  • Cookies
  • Cocoa-flavor products
  • Gelatin
  • Candy
  • Flour mixes
  • Syrup with flavoring
  • Frostings
  • Chewing gum
  • Ice cream
  • Soft drinks
  • Sauces


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 — is 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. This poses a great threat to users of Juul and other e-cigarettes. Diacetyl vapor inhalation is linked to an array of pulmonary complications, including the 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.

9 Comments Posted

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. Just read an article regarding DIPCETYL (buttery flavoring). It effects you memory!

    Posted by Sam Longwell on Wed Nov 28 2018 2:38pm

  4. I read that it’s not just memory – it can add to the chance of Alzheimer’s disease. Microwave popcorn seems to be extremely toxic. As per WebMD.

    Posted by Mari on Sat Jul 20 2019 11:04am

  5. If you are reading this because you are “pro vaping” then what you are saying is your bad thing you do to your body is less bad than smoking. So we both agree vaping is a bad thing to do and, in conclusion, you are making poor life decisions and should quit vaping today.

    In twenty years ago there are going to be pictures of you holding some lame outdated smoking device that you will be embarrassed that you ever held in your hand.

    Posted by Robert Harris on Fri Sep 13 2019 8:44am

  6. Are there any coffees, beer or wines that do not contain Diacetyl? And what’s the difference between Diacetyl and dipcetyl?

    Posted by CYNTHIA GRIFFITH on Sun Sep 22 2019 4:54pm

    • I am not sure that we are familiar with “dipcetyl”. Do you possibly mean “acetyl” or “acetyl propionyl”, Cynthia?

      Posted by Jordan Terry on Tue Sep 24 2019 4:30pm

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