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.

24 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

  7. Are there any coffees, beers, etc. that don’t contain diacetyl?

    Posted by Betsy on Wed Jan 8 2020 12:46pm

    • Almost all coffees & beers contain at least some level of diacetyl. During consumption, this diacetyl is harmless. The heated diacetyl vapors, often released during beverage making and preparation, are what pose a threat to consumers. If you are just drinking a beer, you aren’t at risk. However, if you are brewing your own beer, you may want to check diacetyl levels and be sure to have proper protection (ventilation and facemasks). The same can be said for coffee – if you are consuming coffee, even while hot, you are at a minimum risk for diacetyl exposure. If you are roasting your own coffee beans, you are likely at risk and should take precautions.

      Posted by Jordan Terry on Thu Jan 9 2020 10:44am

  8. Are you open to face to face consultation/ conversation and fill forms in office

    Posted by Jannette on Mon Mar 16 2020 11:11am

    • Jannette, normally we are open to in-person consultations. Given the ongoing current events, we are trying to do our part in minimizing social interactions and encouraging social distancing by limiting most client interactions to phone-calls and emails. Under special circumstances, we may be able to schedule a face-to-face consultation. We will reach out via the email that you have provided.

      Posted by Jordan Terry on Tue Mar 17 2020 9:54am

  9. What about cheeses
    Is consuming grilled cheese ok, or is that to much heat on the cheese?

    Posted by C on Tue Mar 17 2020 7:15pm

    • C – Consuming these products is safe. The manufacturing and cooking of these foods puts individuals at the most risk. Generally, mass production is the most dangerous while cooking for oneself won’t put you at a big risk. So, if you are cooking yourself a grilled cheese to have for lunch, you are fine. If you work in a plant that produces cheese or you work at a company that mass produces grilled cheese, you could be at risk.

      Posted by Jordan Terry on Fri Mar 20 2020 9:29am

  10. Thankyou for information, my body is going through some changes. And I am trying to find out what changed in my habits that maybe made things change. I am a strong believer in the things we put our bodies through makes a huge difference. So thanks for helping me stay healthy.

    Posted by Cathy Curry on Wed Mar 25 2020 2:11pm

  11. I make my own kefir with whole milk. With my own grains. Am I putting myself at risk, with the diacetyl exposure? I’ve read there’s only small amounts and beverage is consumed cold. Thank you.

    Posted by Amy Roessing on Mon Mar 30 2020 4:52am

    • Diacetyl exists in many foods, even natural foods such as certain grains. When those foods are heated during the production process it can release differing levels of dangerous vaporized diacetyl into the air. Generally, these vaporized gases begin to pose a threat in mass production settings and not so much so for individuals making their own food or beverages. However, there have been documented cases of individuals that suffered injury due to diacetyl vapor exposure in a non-mass production setting – for example, a video store clerk suffered lung injury as a result of his daily task of having to heat up buttered popcorn. If you are making kefir, you should not worry too much. But, we would encourage you to wear a respiratory protection device is that process requires you to heat any of the ingredients to produce the kefir. It’s a simple protective measure that will keep you safe from any exposure.

      Posted by Jordan Terry on Mon Mar 30 2020 1:16pm

  12. Does diacetyl affect the brain ultimately contributing to memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease? Others have asked; tgeir questions were not answered.

    Posted by Grace Seventko on Wed Apr 1 2020 6:30am

    • Grace – while we would like to give you a definitive answer on this, our efforts thus far have been primarily focused on the science of diacetyl vapor’s effect on the human respiratory system. We will absolutely begin to research the question that you have presented and hopefully, we can find an answer for you.

      Posted by Jordan Terry on Thu Apr 2 2020 11:34am

  13. Diacetyl can be listed as “natural flavoring” . How can you know in an ingredient’s list what these “natural flavorings” are?

    Posted by Linda Kester on Sun Apr 5 2020 10:37am

    • This is an issue that has been pressed before. Because diacetyl is naturally occurring in many foods, it does not fall under the “added ingredients” list on some labels. However, diacetyl is added to other foods in order to give them a smokey or buttery flavor – when this is the case, diacetyl can be found on the “added ingredients” list of the label. For foods that contain natural diacetyl, best practice is to familarize yourself with the foods so that you are aware of which types of foods contain diacetly naturally. We suggest scientific and peer-reviewed literature.

      Posted by Jordan Terry on Mon Apr 6 2020 11:54am

  14. Would working at a coffee shop making espresso drinks be an unhealthy exposure to diacetyl?

    Posted by Susan on Sat Apr 18 2020 6:44pm

    • Generally not, Susan. Depending on the length of employment and exposure to vapors, a coffee barista runs at least a minimal risk of inhaling vaporized diacetyl. However, the greatest risk is to individuals who work in roasting facilities, where the coffee beans are heated. If you do notice that you are having difficulty breathing, you should consult your primary care physician and make sure that they are aware of your profession. It is unlikely that you develop lung damage from making coffee drinks, but it isn’t completely out of the question.

      Posted by Jordan Terry on Mon Apr 20 2020 4:36pm

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