I find the aroma of freshly popped microwave intoxicating, because basically I am a sucker for anything salty and crunchy. Since it is the last day of National Popcorn Popping Month, I thought I should break the bad news. Unfortunately that familiar movie theater smell may actually be dangerous.
The fumes from butter flavored microwave popcorn contain the chemical diacetyl, which is an additive that gives food that buttery taste. It has been linked to lung disease in workers at factories manufacturing butter flavoring and buttered flavored popcorn. Recently a man from Colorado, who ate two bags of extra buttery flavored microwave popcorn daily for several years, was reported to have contracted "popcorn lung," or broncheolitis obliterans in medical speak.
Doctors say that eating microwave popcorn isn't dangerous, but they're not yet sure about the dangers of inhaling the fumes. In response, some microwave popcorn companies including those that make Orville Redenbacher, Act II, Pop Secret and Jolly Time are planning on ditching that chemical from their products.
I'm all for anything in moderation, but this little tidbit of info is pretty scary. How can inhaling the chemical be harmful, but consuming it be safe? It doesn't make sense, and this is a great example of why reading nutrition labels is so important. As a rule of thumb, when I check out a product, if I haven't heard of an ingredient, I don't buy it.
Fit's Tips: When it comes to microwave popcorn, Newman's Own Organics makes a pretty tasty product, but I prefer to pop my own on the stove. All you need is a pot, a lid, some canola oil, and popcorn kernels. It tastes better than any microwave popcorn I've ever had, and I feel good knowing what's in it. If you don't want to use oil, you can microwave the kernels in a lunch size brown paper bag. Check out my recipe here.