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Some butter-flavored popcorn could be a defective product

The latest product to join the list of the most feared food suspects is butter popcorn. Consumers in West Virginia and nationwide may want to read the labels more carefully before they take home microwave popcorn that contains a dangerous chemical called diacetyl. It's a highly volatile substance related to butane that gives popcorn a buttery taste. Government agencies now describe it as a dangerous substance which makes popcorn a defective product that can lead to what is called "popcorn lung" or more accurately bronchiolitis obliterans.

That condition is an end-stage lung disease that is untreatable other than by a highly unreliable lung transplant procedure. In the past 10 years or so the hazards of the defective product have become known due mostly to workers in popcorn factories developing the fatal lung disease. Apparently, it takes sustained exposure and inhalation to trigger the disease.

With respect to consumers, warnings are now required on food products containing diacetyl. Some popcorn aficionados developed the lung disease by eating the popcorn virtually daily for decades without cessation. One man in 2012 won a $7.2 million verdict in Colorado against certain popcorn manufacturers. He had developed bronchiolitis obliterans after years of adoring the buttery aroma and taste of his microwave popcorn treats.

Conversely, an Iowa federal judge recently dismissed a defective product case brought by a Michigan couple against popcorn makers. The judge ruled that the case was over the three-year statute of limitations and was dismissed for late filing. The late filing does not make a judgment on the merits of the claims. Pending any reversals on appeal, it would appear that those popcorn makers dodged a lethal litigation missile by the plaintiff's tardiness or indecision.

West Virginia residents again are urged to carefully examine labels and other sources of food product ingredients. A separate warning should appear on the package with respect to diacetyl, and this applies to other foods not just popcorn. It would be regretful indeed if a serious condition results from enjoying one's favorite snack on a regular basis without first studying what is being ingested.

Source:, 'Popcorn lung' lawsuit dismissed; Iowa judge spikes claim by Grand Rapids couple, Garett Ellison, Dec. 25, 2013

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