US moves closer to workplace regulation of diacetyl

21 January 2009 21:22  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--The US Labor Department on Wednesday took another step toward regulating workplace exposure to diacetyl and related substances that are used as flavouring in popcorn and other foods.

The department’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) issued an invitation for general public comment concerning occupational exposure to diacetyl and food flavourings containing diacetyl.

The administration said it wants to hear from companies, labour organizations and others concerning possible links between diacetyl exposure among workers and adverse health effects.

The invitation for public comment - formally called an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) - also seeks information on evaluating and monitoring workplace exposure to diacetyl, methods to control that exposure and possible medical monitoring for related adverse health effects.

Such a notice typically is followed by a proposed rule establishing workplace safety standards.  The proposed rule would be open to public comment before a final rule is issued by the department. A final rule could come late this year.

The notice of likely rulemaking covers more than just butter flavours in popcorn, however. 

In addition to information on diacetyl, the administration said it wants comment and data on “acetoin, acetaldehyde, acetic acid, furfural, and other compounds present in food flavourings that may cause or contribute to flavouring-related lung disease”.

OSHA said that “the information received in response to this document will assist the agency in developing a proposed standard addressing occupational exposure to diacetyl and food flavourings containing diacetyl”.

Those interested may submit comments to the department within 90 days or until 21 April.

Diacetyl is widely used in a variety of foods but most prominently to give microwave popcorn a butter flavour. It also is used in some fragrances. 

Worker exposure to diacetyl has formed the basis of several lawsuits, and major food production companies recently have announced plans to abandon use of the substance.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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