In joint comments filed last week, IDFA and Charles Schroeder of DairyChem Inc. argued that the dairy processing industry should be excluded from any new regulation on the use of diacetyl in the workplace. The comments expanded on the testimony offered by Schroeder last month at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's hearing to review the impact that new regulations would have on small business.
OSHA appears poised to take regulatory action on diacetyl as early as this year. This action could have a significant impact on the dairy industry, because many cultured products contain naturally occurring diacetyl and other dairy products contain diacetyl added as a flavoring.
A natural byproduct of fermentation, diacetyl has been associated with a severe lung disease, bronchiolitis obliterans, among some workers from microwave popcorn plants and in flavor and extract manufacturing facilities. The health risk is associated with inhaling diacetyl, and OSHA and others are concerned that similar conditions may exist in other workplaces.
In the comments, IDFA and Schroeder explain the manufacturing processes for seven categories of dairy products, including fluid milk, ice cream and natural cheese, to demonstrate the minimal potential for worker exposure to diacetyl. Because most dairy products are processed cold or are kept cold, both naturally occurring and added diacetyl are unlikely to volatize and enter the air at these low temperatures.
"The dairy industry has been around for thousands of years, and we have not noted any unusual indications that respiratory illnesses are common or even exist in our industry," the comments state. "Any exposure that dairy workers face through the use of flavors or distillates containing diacetyl is brief, approximately a minute or less, and the natural levels of diacetyl in dairy products are low."
In the May 26 issue of News Update, Clay Detlefsen, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs, discussed the industry's need to develop additional evidence that would refute OSHA's presumption that diacetyl may be a problem in dairy workplaces. He encouraged operations producing cultured products, especially those using artificial diacetyl as an additive, to strongly consider participating in third-party, OSHA-sponsored site visits. Several companies have since expressed interest in participating in these audits, which will be funded by OSHA.
For more information, contact Detlefsen at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 220-3554.