Could butter substitute make cooks sick?

Dec 22, 2007

U.S. restaurant cooks who spend hours at the stove could be at risk from a flavoring additive used in butter substitutes, a report says.

The additive, diacetyl, has already been linked to a lung condition found in employees in popcorn and food flavoring plants, the Seattle Intelligencer reports. When butter substitute is heated, diacetyl forms a vapor. The lung disease, bronchiolitis obliterans, can be fatal.

The newspaper commissioned a study on how much diacetyl is released during cooking and found that chefs in busy eateries, especially those that do a big trade in breakfast dishes like scrambled eggs, could be breathing in as much as factory workers. Some workers at a Jasper, Mo., popcorn plant developed the lung disease.

"Without a comprehensive evaluation it's impossible to assess the actual risk, but there is no doubt that this group of workers should be studied," Dr. Richard Kanwal of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

Copyright 2007 by United Press International

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gopher65
not rated yet Dec 23, 2007
Being a cook myself I can tell you that diacetyl isn't the only thing we have to worry about breathing in. Restaurants are low-margin businesses, and owners can't afford the several million dollars it would take to put *real* ventilation systems in their kitchens. So they put cheap 50,000 dollar ones in instead, and they are woefully inadequate.

I did a rough calculation a while ago (estimating the % of fumes that remain in the air and for how long and such things) and I figured that on average we were breathing in a similar amount of crap as we would if we were smoking 1.5 packs of cigarettes a day. Course that was only a guesstimate.