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Federal Judge Denies Workers’ Claim Against Microwave Popcorn Butter Manufacturer

By Jack H. FarnbauchFebruary 28, 2018

A federal judge in the Southern District of Indiana has recently ruled against 27 workers who claimed they suffered respiratory injuries from exposure to a microwave popcorn butter flavor ingredient that has been linked to lung disease in the manufacturing process.

Senior Judge Sarah Evans Barker granted summary judgment to Givaudan Flavors Corp. on the final remaining claim in a suit brought in February 2014. The plaintiffs claimed they suffered respiratory injuries from exposure to the flavoring ingredient diacetyl while working at the ConAgra Snack Foods Group plant in Rensselaer, Indiana.

The judge ruled in favor of Givaudan because the plaintiffs failed to provide expert testimony on the costs and benefits of a diacetyl-free butter flavor or show that the diacetyl-free butter flavors that existed prior to 2007 were cost-effective alternatives. The judge stated that expert testimony was necessary because these subjects are not common knowledge.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, current scientific evidence points to diacetyl as one agent that can cause flavorings-related lung disease. Other flavoring ingredients may also play a role in causing health complications. You can read the judge's opinion here.