Frito-Lay, Inc., a manufacturer and seller of some of the United States’ most popular snack foods, faces a class action lawsuit alleging that it hides the use of synthetic diacetyl in its cheddar and sour cream flavored chips. Law360 reports that the complaint alleged that the company led reasonable consumers to believe its “Ruffles” brand “Baked Lays Cheddar & Sour Cream Flavor” potato chips are derived from natural sources. The complaint says that the chips contain far more diacetyl than would be used in natural dairy products. Diacetyl is an organic compound that is used for artificial flavoring in many foods and additives. The chemical has made headlines after workers in factories developed lung conditions from long-term Diacetyl exposure. The discovery of diacetyl in the company’s products could indicate a potential unsafe work environment for Frito-Lay employees who may be exposed to dangerous diacetyl vapors in the workplace.
Although the class action lawsuit alleges misrepresentation of the nature of the product itself, the diacetyl in Frito-Lay chips could be of greater concern to the Frito-Lay workers exposed to diacetyl. Although diacetyl is generally safe in it’s natural form, research has indicated that vaporized diacetyl, produced during the food manufacturing process, can be dangerous if inhaled. Without proper protective equipment, employees in these working conditions could be at great risk of developing serious and even life-threatening lung injuries.
Diacetyl is a chemical compound used to mimic the taste, smell, and texture of butter. The chemical is naturally contained in certain foods, but it is most common as a man-made additive in processed foods, beverages, additives, and even e-cigarette juices. Common foods containing diacetyl include popcorn, corn chips, crackers, and potatoes chips. Diacetyl occurs naturally in some dairy products, coffee beans, fruits, and other food and beverages.
Foods containing diacetyl are not inherently dangerous to consume. However, diacetyl poses a toxicity risk when heated. This triggers a chemical reaction that produces unsafe vapors. Prolonged exposure to diacetyl vapor has been tied to popcorn lung and other health complications. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has classified diacetyl as GRAS, or “generally recognized as safe.” It’s important to note that GRAS refers to food consumption and does not apply to the inhalation of heated vapors.
Exposure to diacetyl vapors has been tied to bronchiolitis obliterans, a lung condition also known as “popcorn lung.” Many workers in factories that use diacetyl have been diagnosed with the disease. When diacetyl vapors enter a person’s lungs, the small airways can become scarred and inflamed. This limits the amount of oxygen that enters the lungs and bloodstream, leading to problems with breathing and other complications. Without proper protective equipment, Frito-Lay workers exposed to diacetyl could be at risk of developing serious, even life-threatening injuries, such as popcorn lung.
The complaint, filed in California federal court in October 2020, said that Frito-Lay displayed images of cheddar cheese and sour cream on the front bag of its chips. The plaintiff told the court that the company misled consumers by not disclosing the use of artificial flavoring on the front label. The suit makes claims for misleading advertising, unfair business practices, and violations of California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act. Frito-Lay faced a similar class action earlier this year.
If you believe that you or a loved one were exposed to unsafe levels of diacetyl without proper protective equipment, seek medical assessment for potential exposure-related conditions as soon as possible. Mention your exposure and your concerns about bronchiolitis and potential symptoms. Be sure to follow your doctor’s orders and treat your injuries if needed. If you are diagnosed with popcorn lung or any other complications from exposure to the chemical, you might be eligible to participate in a diacetyl lawsuit. Contact a popcorn lung lawyer today to learn more. TorHoerman Law is working to bring awareness of the dangers of diacetyl exposure. As the nation’s leading diacetyl exposure law firm, we have fought for justice for factory workers and their families. To date, we have won over $5 billion in client settlements in vertices with new litigations every week.
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