Diacetyl (IUPAC systematic name: butanedione or 2,3-butanedione) is a natural byproduct of fermentation. It is a vicinal diketone (two C=O groups, side-by-side) with the molecular formula C4H6O2. Diacetyl occurs naturally in alcoholic beverages and is added to some foods to impart a buttery flavor.
At low levels in alcoholic beverages, it contributes a slipperiness to the feel of the beer or wine in the mouth. As levels increase, it imparts a buttery or butterscotch flavor (butterscotch itself may be devoid of diacetyl).
It is produced during fermentation as a byproduct of valine synthesis. During this synthesis yeast produces α-acetolactate, which escapes the cell and is spontaneously decarboxylated into diacetyl. The yeast then absorbs the diacetyl, and reduces the ketone groups to form acetoin and 2,3-butanediol, relatively flavorless compounds.
Beer sometimes undergoes a diacetyl rest, which entails elevating temperature slightly for two or three days after fermentation is complete, to allow the yeast to absorb the diacetyl it produced earlier in the fermentation cycle. The makers of some wines, such as chardonnay, deliberately promote the production of diacetyl because of the feel and flavors it imparts. It is present in many California chardonnays known as "Butter Bombs," although there is a growing trend back toward the more traditional French styles.
Concentrations from 0.005 mg/L to 1.7 mg/L were measured in chardonnay wines, and the amount needed for the flavor to be noticed is at least 0.2 mg/L.
Workers in several factories that manufacture artificial butter flavoring have been diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans, a rare and serious disease of the lungs. The cases found have been mainly in young, healthy, non-smoking males. There are no known cures for bronchiolitis obliterans except for lung transplantation.
While several authorities have called the disease "Popcorn Worker's Lung," a more accurate term suggested by other doctors may be more appropriate, since the disease can occur in any industry working with diacetyl: diacetyl-induced bronchiolitis obliterans.
After the workers filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers, the United States Environmental Protection Agency began an investigation into the chemical properties of microwave popcorn butter flavoring. In March 2004, former microwave popcorn plant employee Eric Peoples, of Joplin, Missouri, was awarded $20 million for permanent lung-injuries sustained while on the job. On July 19, 2005, jurors awarded $2.7 million to another popcorn plant worker in Missouri for his claim of diacetyl-induced respiratory problems.
On July 26, 2006, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the United Food and Commercial Workers petitioned the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to promulgate an emergency temporary standard to protect workers from the deleterious health effects of inhaling diacetyl vapors. The petition was followed by a letter of support signed by more than thirty prominent scientists. The matter is under consideration.
There are currently two bills in the California Legislature to ban the use of diacetyl.
The Flavor and Extract Manufacturers on September 4, 2007, recommended reduction of diacetyl in butter flavorings. The Pop Weaver brand popcorn from the Weaver Popcorn Company of Indianapolis was the first to replace its butter flavoring with a new ingredient. Weaver makes the Trail's End brand of popcorn sold by the Boy Scouts of America. A ConAgra spokesperson has said it will do the same in a year, and is working to remove the ingredient from its popcorn products.
In a Reuters story dated September 5, 2007, writer Julie Steenhuysen quoted the spokeswoman for ConAgra Foods Inc, maker of Orville Redenbacher and Act II microwave popcorn brands, saying "it will drop diacetyl from its butter-flavored microwave popcorn in the near future."
OSHA seeks comments on diacetyl exposure in workplace.(WASHINGTON)(United States. Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
Feb 09, 2009; The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking on occupational...