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Popcorn Processing Industry Response to FDA’s Open Comment Period on Measure to Further Reduce Trans Fat in Processed Food

The popcorn processing industry works collaboratively – as an industry and with government food, health, safety and regulatory agencies – to produce a safe, quality product for consumers to enjoy.

Product expansions, enhancements and reformulations over the past decade have led to a voluntary reduction in the amount of fat – saturated and trans – in a variety of popcorn products. Consumers have a choice of popcorn products to fit into their diet and lifestyle needs.

The Popcorn Board supports current health recommendations encouraging a diet low in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, reducing total fat intake to 30% or less of total calories. The popcorn processing industry will continue to work with the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure safe, quality popcorn products for consumers of all ages to enjoy.

Statement Regarding Microwave Popcorn

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has deemed microwave popcorn safe for human consumption. The popcorn processing industry has and will continue to work collaboratively - as an industry, and with government food, health, safety and regulatory agencies - to produce a safe, quality product for consumers to enjoy.

General Information – Microwave Popcorn

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has deemed microwave popcorn safe for human consumption. The Popcorn Institute, a trade association of processors of popcorn, has worked with the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), to gather and disseminate information to the popcorn processing industry on workplace and consumer product safety, and to make any and all research available on topics such as workplace safety, safe handling of ingredients, etc., available to the industry at-large.

In 2001, the Institute became aware that workers at a microwave popcorn manufacturing facility had been diagnosed in 2000 with a rare, obstructive lung disease, known as bronchiolitis obliterans, which is characterized by inflammation and scarring in the smallest airways of the lungs, and often leads to severe breathing difficulties.

Subsequent research by NIOSH indicated that one possible cause for the airway impairment in microwave popcorn plant workers – particularly those in mixing room facilities -- was exposure to diacetyl. Diacetyl is a naturally-occurring chemical in bay and other oils, beer, butter, coffee, vinegar, and other food products, and is an ingredient that gives the flavor of butter to an artificial butter flavoring used in microwave popcorn. NIOSH’s research suggested that frequent breathing of diacetyl in the air -- without protective manufacturing controls, ventilation and use of personal protective equipment -- could expose workers to potential health risks.

Popcorn processors, along with NIOSH, OSHA and EPA, continue to research possible effects of exposure to diacetyl and to monitor all related developments to insure workplace and consumer safety with respect to microwave popcorn products.

These efforts on the part of the popcorn processing industry to work collaboratively - as an industry and with government food, health, safety and regulatory agencies - to produce a safe, quality product for consumers to enjoy will continue as the issues relating to diacetyl are explored and resolved.

Preventing Lung Disease in Workers Who Use or Make Flavorings

The safe handling of ingredients, particularly related to microwave popcorn packing plant worker safety issues, continues to be of high importance to the industry. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has issued an alert on preventing lung disease in workers who use or make flavorings. To receive this document or other information about occupational safety and health topics, contact NIOSH at 1.800.35.NIOSH (1.800.356.4674); Fax: 513.533.8573; Email: pubstaft@cdc.gov or visit the NIOSH Web site at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-110/.

The Popcorn Board also worked with the Kansas City office of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to distribute materials on the safe handling of flavorings and ingredients in October, 2002. If you would like additional copies of these materials, contact Genny Bertalmio at 312.673.4883 or gbertalmio@smithbucklin.com.

The Popcorn Board Statement on Biotechnology

There continues to be no US popcorn or popcorn seed produced using biotechnology currently available for sale in domestic or international markets.

Trans Fat

Trans fatty acids occur in food products when cooking oils are hydrogenated to make them more solid and stable. Trans fats also occur naturally in meat and dairy products.

Hydrogenation is a process in which a liquid product is heated with hydrogen to make it solid at room temperature. The process is controlled to give a desired melting point. The amount of hydrogenation can vary from product to product. When liquid oil is hydrogenated, the process converts some of the unsaturated fatty acids into saturates. It also changes the molecular structure of the oil to form what is know as trans fatty acids. The hydrogenation process allows manufacturers to make oils solid and more shelf stable. It can give some food products consistency, and others a greater shelf life.

Current health recommendations encourage a diet low in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. Current recommendations encourage consumers to reduce total fat intake to 30% or less of total calories. Health, medical and nutrition research/scientific organizations, particularly the American Dietetic Association, The American Heart Association, the Institute of Food Technologists, the American Institute of Nutrition, the International Food Information Council and the American Society for Clinical Nutrition, all recommend following current dietary guidelines for total fat intake.

Trans fatty acids are present in a wide range of food products. Their contribution to the total diet is small - only 2-4% of calories are from trans fat. Some popcorn products do contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and will contain a small percentage of trans fatty acids.

The Popcorn Board supports current health and medical recommendations on reducing fat intake to 30% of calories or less; saturated fat to 10% of total calories.

For more information about trans fat, visit the International Food Information Council web site at www.ific.org.

The Popcorn Board Discourages Use of Paper Bags for Popping Popcorn in a Microwave

The Popcorn Board suggests consumers refrain from using plain or recycled paper bags (brown or white) to pop popcorn in a microwave.

Plain and/or recycled papers are often made from unknown materials that could catch fire, interfere with microwave cooking technology and lessen the performance and longevity of a microwave oven. Most importantly, these unknown materials most likely are not approved as food grade papers, and should not come in direct contact with food products.

Instead, the Popcorn Board recommends the use of readily available popcorn products and poppers that have been developed for safe use in microwaves.