Home > News > Archive > 13th September 2007

Popping mad at claims

Courtesy of Te Awamutu Courier
Fiona Findlay
POP ‘N’ GOOD process worker Fiona Findlay boxes ready-to-eat popcorn at the Te Awamutu plant. This product does not contain diacetyl. 256071AD

By Dean Taylor

Te Awamutu’s Pop ‘n’ Good owners are not happy about media misinformation over popcorn products resulting from one case of illness out of America.

Owner Paul Davies says it is true diacetyl is present in microwave popcorn - but it is a naturally occurring chemical that is also present in beer, butter, coffee, vinegar and other food products. It is an ingredient in butter flavouring used in microwave popcorn.

He says the issue has arisen in America, but as New Zealand’s market leader they seem to have been singled out for unwarranted attention here. In the US, a two-to-three times per day microwave popcorn eater has developed bronchioloitis obliterans, which his doctor is attributing to diacetyl. The user apparently would open the bag and smell the fumes after cooking, a habit of about 10 years.

Despite this, Mr Davies says there are no confirmed cases of consumers contracting this disease from eating popcorn. Mr Davies says the dangers of the product to workers in plants is known, and it is believed the inhalation of the fumes over prolonged periods can cause the disease, a respiratory illness caused by inflammation and scarring of the lungs reducing lung capacity. But he says plants such as his are aware of these issues and take measures to cancel the risk.

Mr Davies believes all commonly available microwave popcorn in New Zealand has diacetyl.

Davies Foods, manufacturer of Pop ‘n’ Good popcorn, does not use the ingredient in its ready-to-eat Pop’n’Good brand, but does manufacture a microwave popcorn for a third party. Mr Davies says Davies Foods had already notified the third party in June that they would not continue manufacturing their microwave popcorn after the expiry of the current contract, which ends on December 1. He says that decision wasn’t in any way related to the diacetyl issue, but they have suspended manufacture in Te Awamutu to conduct an audit of safety precautions and procedures for staff - not because of consumer concerns - as the Government food safety agency, the New Zealand Food and Safety Authority, has confirmed diacetyl is an approved ingredient here and overseas.

The company believes current measures are robust enough, but are undertaking the precautionary measure in the interest of ensuring the safest possible working environment. They also distribute Act II microwave popcorn in New Zealand, which is made by ConAgra Foods in the United States. ConAgra Foods has planned to remove diacetyl from Act II as soon as possible as a precaution to ensure they are providing a safe environment for their workers and to alleviate any concerns that consumers may have about diacetyl.