Which store bought popcorn is healthy

The discussion about diacetyl and other food additives started a re-evaluation of various flavorings by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), but it has apparently not found any risk to consumers from diacetyl in food to date.

The use of artificial butter flavor has not yet been banned, although studies have shown that almost all artificial popcorn butter flavors - unlike real butter - can give off dangerously high levels of diacetyl vapors when heated.

Many microwave popcorn companies now do without diacetyl in popcorn to reassure their customers. However, diacetyl has now been replaced with other chemicals that are not necessarily better.

Which foods contain diacetyl?

Artificial diacetyl is still found in many foods that taste like butter. These include flavored frying oils, margarine, diet products or various snacks. Diacetyl is a natural component of various foods such as real butter, but natural foods are generally not dangerous.

The diacetyl release from butter, for example, is many times less than that of the said artificial butter flavors.

But since butter also gives off diacetyl vapors when heated, it has been advised against using butter for frying for years. Instead, however, there have been more and more flavored frying oils for some time, all of which smell tremendously like butter and which, strangely, nobody advises against.

However, there are suspicions that these products - as they also form fumes when frying - pose a health risk. Cooks or hobby cooks in particular could be affected by this risk.

If you want to avoid artificial butter aroma for these reasons, you should take a look at the ingredients. But be careful: Diacetyl can hide behind the terms "aroma", "butter aroma" and even "natural butter aroma". If you want to be safe, you should generally refrain from using flavored products - especially those that have to be heated, since the danger with diacetyl is known to come from the vapors.


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  • Kanwal R et al., "Occupational lung disease risk and exposure to butter-flavoring chemicals after implementation of controls at a microwave popcorn plant." Public Health Rep. 2011 Jul-Aug; 126 (4): 480-94. (Occupational lung disease risk and exposure to butter-flavoring chemicals after performing controls in a microwave popcorn plant.)
  • Kanwal R et al., "Evaluation of flavorings-related lung disease risk at six microwave popcorn plants." J OccupEnviron Med. 2006 Feb; 48 (2): 149-57. (Testing of flavors related to the risk of lung disease in six microwave popcorn companies)
  • Egilman DS et al., "A proposal for a safe exposure level for diacetyl." Int J OccupEnviron Health. 2011 Apr-Jun; 17 (2): 122-34. (A Suggestion for a Safe Limit for Diacetyl)
  • Rigler MW, Longo WE "Emission of diacetyl (2,3 butanedione) from natural butter, microwave popcorn butter flavor powder, paste, and liquid products." Int J OccupEnviron Health. 2010 Jul-Sep; 16 (3): 291-302. (Emission of diacetyl (2,3 butanedione) from natural butter, microwave popcorn butter flavor powder, paste, and liquid products.)
  • AolNews "Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Make Popcorn"
  • Food Navigator "Europe takes" wait-and-see "stance on diacetyl flavoring" by Laura Crowley and Ahmed ElAmin October 31, 2007
  • Euro-Lex Access to EU law
  • Flavoring Substance Database - Details for: (07.052) Diacetyl (Database of all flavoring substances used in the EU - Details on Diacetyl)
  • SCOEL Rating of Diacetyl 2010
  • Andrew Schneider / Seattle P-I "Diacetyl shows up in more foods, puts commercial and home cooks atrisk" December 22, 2007 (Diacetyl appears in more and more foods and poses a danger to business and amateur cooks)

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This information is passed to the best of my knowledge and belief. They are intended exclusively for those interested and for further training and are in no way to be understood as diagnostic or therapeutic instructions. We do not assume any liability for damages of any kind, which arise directly or indirectly from the use of the information. If you suspect illness, please consult your doctor or alternative practitioner

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