CDC Issues Recommendations for Food Flavoring Compounds

November 2, 2016

2 Min Read
CDC Issues Recommendations for Food Flavoring Compounds
The CDC issued exposure limit recommendations to diacetyl, commonly used in butter flavorings. Image courtesy of Flickr user Kelleycdb

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NOISH) issued formal recommendations Monday to control workplace exposure to two commonly used food flavoring compounds – diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione – after the substances were found to have links to impaired lung function in workers exposed to the compounds.

Published in a document Monday, “Criterial for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Exposure to Diacetyl and 2,3-Pentanedoine,” the CDC said that even though the substances are safe to eat, they pose a threat to the health of food and chemical industry workers who breathe the substances in.

“To protect workers, NOISH recommends a REL (recommended exposure limit) of 5ppb for diacetyl as a time-weighted average (TWA) for up to 8 hrs/day during a 40-hour work week. To further protect against the effects of short-term exposures, NOISH recommends a short term exposure limit for diacetyl of 25 parts per billion for a 15-minute time period,” the institute said in a statement.

Diacetyl is often used in butter flavorings in products like microwave popcorn and other snack foods. It is also used as ingredient in nicotine vapor oils.

“Additionally, NOISH recommends keeping exposure to 2,3-pentanedoine below 9.3 ppb as an 8-hour TWA during a 40-hour work week,” NOISH said, adding that the REL for 2,3-pentanedoine is higher than the figure for diacetyl because of “analytical method limitations.” For short-term exposure, the institute recommended a limit of 31 parts per billion during a 15-minute period.

“We know these flavoring compounds can pose a great risk for workers who may be exposed on the job, causing serious and irreversible damage to their lungs,” NOISH director John Howard M.D. said in a statement. “This Criteria Document reflects not only our review of the science and understanding of the hazard, but also outlines our recommendations for controlling workplace exposures to these compounds. With the release of this document, NOISH is taking an important step in protecting the health and safety of all those who may be exposed to these compounds while on the job.”

Initially recognized at a microwave popcorn plant in the 1990s, researchers found that exposure to diacetyl can lead to a rare form of severe lung disease known as obliterative bronchiolitis. NOISH said it conducted numerous studies, a quantitative risk assessment, and reviews of scientific literature in the lead up to the new recommendations. The institute will continue to collect information on workplace risks from the food flavoring compounds through its Health Hazard Evaluation program.

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