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Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers World-Wide

New Evidence on Harmful Impact of Diacetyl Exposure/Australian Union Action

Posted to the IUF website 28-Feb-2008

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A new US study of the effects of exposure to the food flavouring ingredient diacetyl confirms that even low levels of exposure can cause harmful and even fatal damage to lung tissue. Researchers from the National Institute of Environmental Health and Duke University tested the results of varying levels and durations of exposure on laboratory mice. Some of the exposure levels were similar to those found in certain food processing plants. Others approximated the levels recently found when restaurant workers in commercial kitchens were exposed to diacetyl vapours released through heating cooking oils and various butter substitutes.

The study concludes that "cinically relevant diacetyl exposures results in a pattern of injury that replicates features of human bronchiolitis obliterans." In other words, diacetyl kills.

A pre-publication version of the study, which is to be published in the Journal of the Society of Toxicology, can be read here.

In Australia, the IUF-affiliated Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU) has pressed the workplace health and safety agency in the state of New South Wales into action, urging the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation of potential hazards in relevant manufacturing sites. The AMWU, which is urging similar action in other federal states, will be informed of the results of the preliminary investigation (scheduled for completion in late February) and involved in resulting follow-up action.