How Safe is Microwave Popcorn?

Everyday at lunchtime a co worker I used to work with popped a bag of popcorn in the microwave in the kitchen.  You could smell it all over the office and everyone knew what time it was.  (And yes!  that was her entire lunch.  She was on a diet!)

That was years ago before any health concerns regarding popcorn started popping to the surface ~ get it?  Popping!

Anyway, we used to buy bagged popcorn at least weekly before going unprocessed and eating healthier foods.  It really is an easy snack for the kids and as moms we love that they can do it themselves.  But due to the surrounding controversy I nixed the popcorn without really looking into the facts.  Now I’m back and taking the time to separate hype from fact regarding this issue.pop

Here is what I found out about microwave popcorn:

1.  Popcorn itself is not the problem.  The problem is what’s in the lining of the bag.  One of the chemicals, called diacetyl, gives the popcorn it’s buttery flavor.  (I know heaven forbid we use the real thing).  Anyway, this chemical occurs naturally in some foods including butter, dairy, beer and wine just to name a few.  But when heated becomes toxic.

The problem first occurred when some factory workers who were exposed to this chemical for long periods of time developed bronchiolitis obliterans, or better known as popcorn lung.  The condition is caused by inhaling the chemical which in turn scars the lungs and restricts breathing.

But it was in 2007 when concerns went from just the factory workers to the general public. Could we develop popcorn lung frpopcornom just eating the popcorn?           Well … there was a case in 2012 where a Colorado man claimed he had developed symptoms similar to popcorn lung and was awarded $7 million {source}.  He also ate 2 bags of popcorn for over 10 years and inhaled the fumes as he opened the bag too.  So …. I don’t know where to go with that one.

However, to date, more than $20 million dollars has been paid out in damages from lawsuits stemming from microwave popcorn and it’s chemicals so there’s something to be said about that.

2.  Diacetyl has since been removed from the linings of the bags and replaced with another buttery flavor.  Feel better now?

Hold on … according to John Hallagan, general counsel for the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association, “We’ve been very clear to flavor manufacturers, food companies and regulators that these so-called substitutes are diacetyl,”


a statement from Drs. Kathleen Kreiss and Nancy Sahakian, physicians from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health said, “The inclusion of these alternative substances neither eliminate diacetyl nor (ensure) safety for workers.” {source}

3.  Just read this sentence from HREOnline: “In 2011, government investigators linked a chemical in the butter flavoring, diacetyl, to the illnesses workers were reporting.  The plant owners then remodeled the plant and ordered workers to wear respirators.  Though the plant still uses the chemicals, there have been no reports of illness since the changes”

Now let me just ask you this ….



1.  Buy an air popper.

It has been over a year since we’ve bought bagged popcorn and to be honest we were over a friends house recently who made some and I thought I was going to puke!  No joke, the smell made me sick to my stomach.  And what’s weird was I used to LOVE that smell, funny huh?  This popper really is great because it’s so small the kids can use it.  You can click here and it will take you to Amazon where I got mine from.  I don’t get any compensation from Amazon it’s just where I shop a lot.










2.  Pop your kernels in a brown paper bag.

This is just so cool!   Get a brown paper bag, add 1/2 cup kernels and microwave until the popping is 5 seconds between pops.  Melt some butter and pour over it if you like and you’re good to go!  I have added oil in the past and it can get greasy so if you do I would recommend double bagging it.  But you really don’t need it.  Just be sure to fold the bag down.  I’ve read some reviews where people tape the bag shut.  Just leave enough room for the popcorn to expand.







3.  Stop eating popcorn.  I opt for #1 or 2 myself.

Happy popping!  🙂
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