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Food Flavoring Diacetyl - Is Your Company At Risk of OSHA Enforcement?


As the Diacetyl exposure case in Jasper, Missouri illustrated, risks may not always be immediately apparent. Sometimes a previously unknown hazard emerges into a major concern for both workers and employers. Just because it was previously unknown does not mean that it does not pose serious risk of injury to workers or litigation costs to employers. Diacetyl and its link to popcorn lung is one such example. Diacetyl is considered safe to consume by the FDA. However, its vapors have been implicated as the primary causative agent of “Popcorn Lung”.

The food flavoring industry has experienced dozens of lawsuits resulting from occupational exposure, and in some cases consumer exposure, to Diacetyl and possibly other related substances. In the previously mentioned case in Jasper, a $20 million settlement was reached with the popcorn lung victim. Another popcorn lung related lawsuit resulted in a judgment of $7.5 million for a worker and many other such cases are pending throughout the court system.

To assess your Company’s risk concerning employee DAPORS exposure resulting in permanent employee illness and/or aggressive OSHA penalties, the following questions can provide guidance as to whether or not your company ought to seek further advice from experts.

  • Does your facility use or manufacture food flavorings containing Diacetyl and Possibly Other Related Substances (DAPORS) such as Acetoin, Acetaldehyde, Furfural, or Acetic Acid? If so, your company is virtually assured to be on OSHA’s list of potential inspection targets.

  • Is your facility fully prepared for OSHA’s National Emphasis Program and Compliance Directive for Diacetyl? If not, your workers may be inadvertently exposed to a potentially hazardous chemical which may result in their injury as well as severe OSHA penalties.

  • Has your facility conducted thorough worker training and a robust risk assessment specifically focused on the potential hazards of Diacetyl? If not, an OSHA inspection may very well yield significant instance-by-instance penalties which will most likely become damaging evidence in the event of a lawsuit.

  • How confident are you that an experienced OSHA inspector will agree that your site is in full compliance of the complex set of regulations? If not absolutely confident, then seek advice or confirmation from safety and health professionals with extensive experience in dealing with OSHA and Diacetyl.

If you are in the food / flavoring industry, your company may be at risk of expensive litigation and enforcement penalties, not to mention inadvertently exposing employees to the pain and suffering attributed to the inhalation of DAPORS. Proactively conducting a robust facility risk assessment, employee training, and implementing effective exposure controls will help mitigate those risks.

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