Microwave Popcorn Makers Vow To Remove Diacetyl

The nation’s 4 largest makers of microwave popcorn have all decided to remove diacetyl, the flavoring ingredient that causes “popcorn lung” in workers, from the vast majority of their products, says the AP.

ConAgra Foods of Omaha, Neb.; General Mills of Golden Valley, Minn.; and American Pop Corn Co., of Sioux City, Iowa, all promised in September to change their recipes. They sell Orville Redenbacher, Act II, Pop Secret and Jolly Time brands.
“We want to assure our consumers they can continue to enjoy their favorite popcorn with complete confidence,” said Stan Jacot, who oversees popcorn marketing for ConAgra.

Although there has been one consumer case of “popcorn lung,” there’s no real danger to consumers who don’t eat microwave popcorn several times a day. The real concern is for those people who work in popcorn plants. Soon, however, you’ll be able to eat your popcorn totally guilt-free. We’d hate to see that nifty “popcorn” button go unused on your microwave.

Popcorn makers removing chemical [IndyStar]
(Photo:Mish Bradley)


Edit Your Comment

  1. loueloui says:

    Yay. What took so long guys? Don’t give me that ‘Oh it occurs naturally so it’s not dangerous’ argument. So does radon gas.

    Oh and Gawker artists, please remove that puffy faced bbw portrait from the ad rotation. It’s really creepin me out.

  2. KJones says:

    Who eats prepackaged “microwave popcorn” with fake butter that is fattier than real butter and tastes nastier than grease from a burger grill?

    If you want microwaved popcorn, cover 4/5th of the bottom of a paper bag (no metal strips in the bag) with popcorn, a layer that’s one kernel thick. Roll the bag closed, then nuke it on high until the popping slows to 1 pop per second.

    Another tip: keep your bag of kernels in the fridge or freezer. The air in the kernels compresses more and expands quicker when heated in a microwave or on the stove.

  3. Ben Popken says:

    @KJones: Lots of people eat microwaved popcorn.

  4. @KJones: I don;t eat pre-packaged. I use a popper I got at Target. Love the thing. I use olive oil w/some fresh ground pepper soaked in it, and add some ground kosher salt on top. Yum and healthy.

  5. KJones says:

    @Ben Popken: When I asked “Who eats microwave popcorn?” it was with the same tone as Jerry Seinfeld (on the Seinfeld show) asking, “Who eats canned fruit?”

    I didn’t say that no one eats it. I’m asking, why would someone eat it when it’s not difficult, expensive or time consuming to do it healthier and differently.

  6. beavis88 says:

    “Vast majority”? Meaning, they’ll still be producing products with Diacetyl?

    Guys, you’re doing it wrong…

  7. 92BuickLeSabre says:

    @beavis88: …and they’re not going to tell you which one’s they left it in.

    “Is it Orville? Is it Pop Secret? Only time will tell!”

  8. Half Beast says:

    One of the few hand-me-downs I have gotten from my parents in an old Presto Air-popper that’s about as old as I am. My folks have always moved away from microwave popcorn, but I think it’s because air-popped is so much better, taste-wise at least.
    The thing still works like a charm.
    A little oil, butter, and ground cinnamon in the drip tray and BAM. That’s good popcorn.

  9. DrGirlfriend says:

    mmm popcorn lung. I get a mental image of your lungs acting like pocorn bags. Just cough up a storm, and you’d have delicious snacks handy at all times!

  10. SacraBos says:

    I’ve eaten microwave popcorn occasionally for a number of years. Not the “butter” ones, I always tried to get plain. Which has been increasingly difficult with the advent of “Movie Theater Butter”, “Butter Lovers”, “Mega Butter”, “Huge Heaping Gobs of Butter”, “Butter, Butter, Butter, Butter, SPAM, and Butter” (which hasn’t got much SPAM in it). This “super-sizing” of the artificial butter-flavored chemical non-nutritive popcorn varnish is absurd.

    I’ve had this mesh popcorn popper that’s meant for use in a fireplace for years. Never used it, just used it to add a little decoration to the fireplace. The kids (K and 2nd grade) convinced me to use it a couple of weeks ago. We had a nice little fire in the fireplace, put some good oil and popcorn in it, and we sat on the hearth while it popped. Young children really enjoy simple things like this, and it was a nice family-time thing.

    Wow. What a joy. I’d forgotten how good home-popped popcorn with quality ingredients tasted. So fewer chemicals. Much less scorching of the popcorn. I’ve sworn off microwave popcorn now.

    @half-beast Ground cinnamon, you say? That does sound good!

  11. smitty1123 says:

    @KJones: Because the bagged stuff tastes even better when you melt half a cube of butter over it and then drench it in salt (sadly, I’m not actually joking).

  12. Dervish says:

    I prefer the Orville light butter. It has a butter taste, but it’s not overwhelming and not super greasy. Apparently ConAgra’s already switched over their flavoring, though, because it tastes different now. It’s more obnoxiously buttery, more greasy-feeling in the mouth, and the kicker – “no added diacetyl” in tiny, inconspicuous dot printing on the top of the package.

    I don’t really understand why this is such an issue to popcorn plant workers. At our plant, the minor ingredient scalers work in an entirely separate room, with facemasks, at stations under enormous hoods. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just install worker protection measures than convert an entire product line to a new, crappier flavor? Or is this now a perceived evil that can’t show up anywhere in food?

  13. VnlaThndr775 says:

    My favorite is Orville’s Organic, but I also love Pop Secret Homestyle. It has real butter and salt on it. Probably closest to what you would get if you made it yourself with a hot air popper, butter, and salt.

  14. TangDrinker says:

    I know it’s not practical for work, but we’ve switched at home to using the NordicWare Microwave popper – I think we bought it for around $10. Put some popcorn in the bowl, put the lid on top, microwave. You can add oil in it if you’d like – but I don’t bother. I do usually melt some real butter in the microwave for it after the corn is done popping. Cheap, better for you, better for the environment.

  15. Landru says:

    How will we know when they remove it?

  16. Dervish says:

    @Landru: As mentioned above, they will probably print something on the package. You’ll also be able to taste it.

  17. marsneedsrabbits says:

    “We want to assure our consumers they can continue to enjoy their favorite popcorn with complete confidence,” said Stan Jacot, who oversees popcorn marketing for ConAgra.

    I’d feel better about things if you said you were taking the issue seriously.

  18. Munsoned says:

    Not a big microwave popcorn fan, but when I do have it, I use garlic salt. Bonus: It keeps the vampires at bay pretty well too.

  19. Dervish says:

    @marsneedsrabbits: How are they not taking it seriously? ConAgra has already removed it from their popcorn.

  20. SacraBos says:

    Wait a minute… Before we all start having group hugs about ConAgra removing diacetyl from the popcorn, maybe we need to find out what chemicals are replacing it…

  21. Dervish says:

    Oh, please. I’m not group hugging anyone – they’re a corporation that reponded to a (somewhat irrational) market pressure in order to maintain profits. I have no illusions about that, but I’m not going to automatically condemn them just because they’re a huge conglomerate.

    Personally, I would rather that they solve the root issue by putting better worker protection measures in place instead of just switching to something else.

  22. ChrisFurniss says:

    It’s probably that nifty popcorn button that is part of the problem. People just set it and think that they can walk away. To cook microwave popcorn you have to wait there until the kernels stop popping. You can’t just let it go!

  23. rouftop says:

    My wife and I started with plain kernels in a brown paper bag in the microwave, but if you’re not careful it’ll burn, plus you waste a lot of paper bags.
    We then switched to a garage-sale air popper. We wasted fewer bags, but most of the kernels came out unpopped, plus it was impossible to keep from making a giant mess. Heated kernels would be ejected from the machine and into the bowl, then pop in the bowl, causing popcornworks.
    We just switched to the Wirley Pop. The flavor and crunch is so much better than air or microwave, it’s a wonder we never discovered it before. It’s slightly more work because you have to operate it by hand, so you can’t go and check your email for 3 minutes while waiting for it to pop. But if you love the ‘corn, it’s worth it.

  24. DrGirlfriend says:

    I used to have a Whirley Pop, unfortunately, the handle broke after just a few months. That was, indeed, some good popcorn.

    I just make it on the stovetop now. I add the kernels to a tall pot along with just a bit of canola oil (as it doesn’t burn and scorch too easily), and keep an eye on it as it pops, giving it an occasional shake.

  25. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    A Redenbacher commercial just ran & said “Now without diacetyl”

  26. UpsetPanda says:

    I eat microwave popcorn maybe…once a year? And even then, I can’t finish a bag. I had a friend who would eat a whole bag for lunch, then cram down two or three when it came time to study for a big test. Imagine watching that. Ick, right?

  27. ChristopherDavis says:

    Count me in as another vote for the NordicWare popper; it’s much cheaper than an air popper as long as you already have a microwave, and works great.

  28. SacraBos says:

    @Dervish: But the root issue is that diacetyl appearently isn’t healthy. Why just protect the workers and not the consumers? Now they are going to replace it with some other non-food chemical, but is it going to be any safer for the workers or the consumers?

    If they are going to replace it, why not replace it with something unprecendented and totally unexpected? Something really cutting edge and original? Like, I don’t know… butter?

  29. hapless says:


    Radon gas, like dicetyl, is pretty safe. It’s heavier than air and typically found in very low concentrations.

    I will miss dicetyl-flavoured popcorn. It’s an extremely distinctive taste. I doubt anything will match it :(

  30. hapless says:


    Diacetyl is what makes butter taste like butter, silly.

  31. Dervish says:

    @SacraBos: It’s unhealthy in astronomically high doses. So is salt, or sugar, or just about anything. As long as the people who are most exposed to the chemical are protected, I’d rather have the old flavoring back instead of changing everything for a few people who don’t practice moderation.

    How do you define a “non-food chemical?” Diacetyl is found naturally in butter and beer, among other things. It’s not just some chemical that food manufacturers throw in because it happens to taste buttery.

    I’m not sure why companies don’t just use butter – I’m not in that business – but I’d guess it has to do with the price consumers are willing to pay, or usage levels, or shelf life. It’s not just an arbitrary decision they made.

  32. Candyman says:


    RTFA. The point is that it’s NOT a danger to consumers. A single extreme case of overconsumption is meaningless. It’s like that water overdose that killed a woman in a radio contest; one extreme case does not make it a dangerous substance.

  33. spryte says:

    @SacraBos: I know what you mean – even in supermarkets that have a fairly big selection of microwave popcorn, I’ve had times where there wasn’t one box that was plain. I can’t stand fake butter flavor! My personal preference for plain microwave popcorn is Newman’s Own. I don’t eat it too often though. I live in a studio apartment and that damn popcorn smell stays around for a loooong time.