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Where do we begin? Besides the fact that most microwave popcorn is high in calories, fat and salt because of what the manufacturers add to an otherwise healthy treat, there are chemicals added to the popcorn and to the bag itself that can cause serious health problems.

Diacetyl, a compound created by fermentation, had long been used by microwave popcorn manufacturers to provide the buttery flavor consumers love on their popcorn. But it was discovered that, when heated up and then inhaled upon opening the bag, the diacetyl could pose a serious threat. Scientists believe that over long periods of time the inhalation of diacetyl may lead to a disease called bronchiolitis obliterans or “popcorn lung.” Eight former workers at a popcorn manufacturing plant and a man who ate two bags of microwave popcorn a day for 10 years (good lord) all developed the irreversible condition.

Many, if not most, popcorn manufacturers stopped using diacetyl in manufacturing and replaced it with 2,3-pentanedione which is basically diacetyl with a new name. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site has published reports regarding the toxicity of diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione and the increased risk of disease for workers exposed to the compound. A new report is scheduled to be released later this month and will be found here:  http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/review/peer/HISA/diacetyl-pr.html

I don’t know about you, but just knowing that the CDC has to provide guidelines for exposure to something that is being added to food is worrisome to me.

Of course, there is a way around all of this. How about popping some corn the old fashioned way? Or buying an air popper? They only cost about $20 and a jar of popcorn kernels is pretty inexpensive as well. You’ll save money doing it yourself and you’ll know exactly what you’re eating. Seems like a great deal to me. And you can dress up your popcorn with fun seasonings and spices such as black pepper, paprika and garlic powder.