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California Announces Proposed Rule on Diacetyl

Oct 12, 2009

California recently became the first state in the nation to unveil a proposal for regulating the use of diacetyl in food manufacturing.

The proposed rule, released by the state's Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), would require additional safety precautions for employees working in flavor and food manufacturing facilities that use diacetyl in concentrations of one percent or more. The rule also would require products containing diacetyl to carry a warning statement on the label.

IDFA has serious concerns about the California approach, especially the proposed labeling requirement, which would affect certain manufacturers of dairy products in the state.

"Specifically those companies that include added diacetyl in their products, for example in cottage cheese dressing or in unsalted butter, will fall under the rule," said Clay Detlefsen, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs. "Naturally occurring diacetyl in dairy products is not an issue."

Fluid milk and ice cream processors most likely would not fall under the regulation, because the diacetyl in the flavorings used in those operations is likely to be below the one-percent threshold.

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.

Facilities covered by the standard would be required to determine the concentration of airborne diacetyl each worker is exposed to in an eight-hour time period. They also would need to establish a regulated area for each process using diacetyl, unless it is closed, and ensure that employees use respirators in these areas.

DOSH estimates that compliance would cost facilities $3,200 initially and $700 annually for each employee working in affected areas. These costs would cover exposure assessments of the workplace, engineering controls, personal protective equipment and medical surveillance of employees.

Many flavoring manufacturers do not currently disclose diacetyl when it is below one percent, and when it is disclosed, it is usually by an off-label declaration. The proposal would require facilities falling under the rule to include this statement on products containing diacetyl:

"WARNING: This product contains diacetyl, which can be a severe respiratory hazard. Breathing dust, mist or vapor from this product could result in irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract and in permanent lung damage."

DOSH will accept public comments regarding the proposed rule through November 19, the same day the standards board plans to hold a public hearing.

"The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is currently mulling over its approach to diacetyl regulation after conducting a very successful small business-related fact-finding mission this past summer," said Detlefsen. "It's unlikely that they will take action before next year."

For more information, contact Detlefsen at or (202) 220-3554.

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