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IDFA Asks Cal/OSHA for Alternate Worker Safety Plan on Diacetyl

Nov 20, 2009

IDFA filed comments last week with the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board regarding the department's recent proposal to limit state workers' exposure to diacetyl in California. While commending and supporting the department's goal of protecting workers, IDFA said the outlined approach would probably confuse workers and limit the effectiveness of the effort.

Instead, IDFA joined with the Grocery Manufacturers Association and other industry groups to propose that Cal/OSHA determine permissible exposure limits that would rationally enhance worker safety. In separate comments, IDFA outlined several conditions where dairy operations using diacetyl-containing flavors to produce food products do not adversely affect worker safety.

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, not ingesting it.

California is the first state in the nation to take regulatory action regarding the use of diacetyl in food manufacturing. IDFA has serious concerns about the proposal, especially the proposed labeling requirement, which would affect certain manufacturers of dairy products in the state.

Companies that include added diacetyl in products, such as cottage cheese dressing or unsalted butter, would be covered, but dairy products with naturally occurring diacetyl would not. 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, the level that would trigger the California rule.

"While we applaud Cal/OSHA's endeavor to prevent additional instances of work-related bronchiolitis obliterans, we are concerned that the proposed rule will unnecessarily cover many operations where diacetyl use is minimal and is not a problem," the comments stated. "We do not believe that Cal/OSHA intended to regulate in such a manner.

For additional background, read the October 2 news story "California Announces Proposed Rule on Diacetyl."

For more information, members may contact Clay Detlefsen, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs, at or 202-220-3554.

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