Cal/OSHA to consider PEL for diacetyl fumes from butter popcorn flavoring

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, Sept. 15, 2006 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

Acting on petitions filed by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and the California Labor Federation, the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) has set an advisory committee meeting to consider a permissible exposure limit (PEL) for diacetyl.  The first meeting of the advisory committee will be in Oakland on September 28, 2006. 

The United States National Institute for Occupations Safety and Health (NIOSH) has suggested that diacetyl, when used in artificial butter flavoring, may be hazardous when heated and inhaled over a long period of time.  NIOSH investigated the occurrence of lung disease in workers at a microwave popcorn packaging plant after eight employees developed respiratory illnesses characterized by fixed airways and trouble breathing.  In animal tests, inhaling vapors from a heated butter flavoring used in microwave popcorn production caused severe injury to airways.

Current NIOSH recommendations for exposure reduction include substitution of another flavoring agent; engineering controls to reduce exposure; administrative controls to limit exposure; education of the workforce; use of personal protective equipment and health monitoring for exposed employees.  While the exact details of future regulations in California remain unclear, the petition requests that a PEL be created and medical monitoring be considered. 

CMTA will be working with members and other interested parties in the days leading up to the meeting to determine our course of action in this developing situation.  If you’re interested in this topic, please immediately contact Jason Schmelzer at

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