Ban Lung-Damaging Chemicals from Artificial Butter Products

Target: Dr. Margaret Hamburg, Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Goal: To ban chemicals in artificial butter products known to cause lung damage in workers and consumers.

Low-fat microwave popcorn might be marketed to consumers as a healthy alternative to a butter-drenched snack, but the flavors that mimic real animal fat do significantly more harm than saturated fat or sodium. Workers who inhale the vapors produced from buttery flavoring chemicals frequently develop debilitating lung diseases, while even consumers who like to smell their microwave popcorn have been diagnosed with respiratory ailments. Despite the danger they pose, these chemicals are still classified as safe by the Food and Drug Administration. Tell the FDA to reclassify deadly flavoring chemicals as unsafe ingredients.

Dozens of workers across the United States have developed bronchiolitis obliterans after being exposed to vapors from the chemical diacetyl, which until recently was commonly used as a flavoring in microwave popcorn and other fake butter products. While most microwave popcorn manufacturers have stopped using diacetyl in their products, the chemical that has replaced it–known as 2,3-pentanedione–was recently proven to pose similar respiratory dangers to workers in factories. Companies have simply swapped out one toxin for another while workers (and likely consumers as well) remain at risk.

Despite worker protests and consumer petitions, diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione both retain “generally classified as safe” status according to the FDA. These deadly chemicals have no place in manufacturing plants or on the shelves of American grocery stores. Tell the Commissioner of the FDA to reclassify these dangerous additives as unsafe.


Dear Dr. Margaret Hamburg,

Our country’s factory workers deserve to be able to do their jobs without fear of inhaling deadly chemicals and developing serious lung conditions. But because the FDA has so far refused to ban dangerous additives from products containing artificial butter, workers and consumers alike remain at risk.

Diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione are both still used in microwave popcorn and other low-fat food products as flavor enhancers in artificial butter. Both chemicals have been proven to cause debilitating lung diseases when inhaled repeatedly over long periods of time. Dozens of workers in microwave popcorn manufacturing facilities have developed bronchiolitis obliterans, a severe condition that is sadly preventable. Even consumers who inhale vapors just from microwaving popcorn at home have been known to develop this serious disease.

These deadly toxins have no place in our factories or our kitchens. I demand that you remove diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione’s “generally regarded as safe” status and protect the health of consumers and workers all over the country.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: jayneandd via Flickr.

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One Comment

  1. Where’s the FDA? Seems like there’s funding to subsidize big producers of this noxious stuff, but not enough left for FDA to do it’s job. Must be pulled off the market now.

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