Recently, after numerous complaints of serious illness from popcorn workers and one complaint of illness from a consumer, ConAgra and Pop Weaver removed diacetyl from its microwave popcorn and now proudly announce to their customers that their product is diacetyl free. Kraft, on the other hand, decided that now would be a good time to introduce a brand new diacetyl-based butter flavor into the market.
Kraft says the flavor “can help improve the nutritional profile of products by reducing their calorie content.” Sadly, fake butter doesn’t taste the same, so manufacturers will have to “adjust their formulations – perhaps through the addition of functional starches or shortenings – in order to build back the texture and mouthfeel normally achieved by butter.” The flavor isn’t limited to popcorn, it can be used for any product where one would need a “toasted butter flavor,” including crackers, soups, and prepared meats.
Doesn’t Kraft worry about diacetyl’s health effects when inhaled?
The truth is, diacetyl doesn’t pose a great risk to consumers, and is really only dangerous when inhaled regularly in large amounts. Workers may be at risk, but there are still no OSHA standards that deal with diacetyl, so it seems that Kraft is in no hurry as long as consumers do not demand that they stop using the ingredient. Kraft says it is currently formulating a diacetyl-free version of the flavor, to be introduced at some time in the future.
“To some customers diacetyl is not an issue, to others it is. We’re moving forward towards formulating solutions to meet customer needs,” KFI flavorist Susan Parker told FoodNavigator-USA.com.