Whenever someone asks me what my favorite food is, I don’t hesitate at all. Ever since I was a little kid the answer has been the same, popcorn. My favorite kind is the movie theatre kind, all buttered up and salty. So much so that when I finish I have to wash my hands. Outside of the movie theatre the most convenient place to find “movie theatre” type popcorn is by buying microwavable bags at a grocery store. Whether it’s Orville Redenbacher or Pop Secret I’ll devour the bag in less than five minutes. My Mom is a very healthy person, and is always looking out for her kids health wise. So years ago when she glossed over an article pointing out the health concerns of microwavable popcorn, she relayed this information to me. I immediately disregarded this information as my Mom just being “crazy” and trying to deviate me from enjoying my favorite snack. This blog assignment helped me recall this, and look further into it. In doing so I realized there are real health concerns in consuming microwavable popcorn, backed by science.
Much of the problems found with microwavable popcorn involves the chemicals that are added into the bag. The artificial flavoring products including butter added to the bags contained diacetyl. Despite the fact that this chemical is FDA-approved it reportedly caused workers at the manufacturing factory of a microwavable popcorn brand to develop a lung disease named bronchiolitis obliterans. Hundreds of factory workers have sued the flavor makers in recent years claiming that they developed lung damage caused by the added in flavor ingredients (CBS, 2007) the flavor addThis was found following a study conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Shukla, 2015). On top of this, another toxic chemical is found in the bags and is linked to causing numerous types of cancer. Perfluorooctanoic acid is an acid that can remain in the human body for prolonged periods of time, and has been linked to cause numerous types of cancer such as prostate and liver, as well as fertility problems (Hendrickson, 2015) (Orecchio) . Some of the top microwavable popcorn brands like PopSecret still use trans fats which can give your arteries and your liver problems. According to the Center for Disease control on an annual basis, trans fats are related to 20,000 heart attacks, and 7,000 deaths (Orecchio). In an extreme case, a man developed a rare lung disease called “popcorn lung”. The man, Wayne Watson claims he ate two bags of microwave popcorn every night for approximately ten years. Not only eating the popcorn, but also inhaling the steam from the just opened package when it was freshly out of the microwave. Now, surely these effects don’t happen to everyone who eats microwavable popcorn. In fact, Watson’s case is the only known case of popcorn lung outside of a factory in which the popcorn is made (CBS, 2007) However, it is concerning to those who eat the product often such as myself. This video details the dangers of microwavable popcorn.
For people who enjoy popcorn as much as I do, they might still want to enjoy the tasty treat without the adverse health effects. Fortunately there are many other ways you can enjoy popcorn, and not have to worry about your health. This is because the problems involved with microwave popcorn aren’t problems with the popcorn itself, but rather problems with the bag, and the chemicals added to that. Other ways you can consume popcorn are by buying bagged popcorn at the store, such as Herr’s popcorn. In this case you are able to see exactly what you are consuming on the nutrition label, without the worry of toxic chemicals lining the bag. Another alternative is to microwave popcorn is to make it yourself on the stove. There are some very good recipes for stove popped popcorn like this one I found (Trantham).
Overall, this should at least raise the awareness of frequent popcorn eaters. For the past month, being a lazy college student I probably have consumed at least on bag of PopSecret microwave popcorn a day. This is due to the fact that there has been a box of sixty bags sitting under my bed since the start of the semester, I am probably halfway through. I without a doubt will cut down my consumption of these due to these facts. I don’t however feel it is totally necessary to completely cut it out of my diet, but rather monitor the amount of times I consume it. Every once in a while is okay, but not at a once a day rate. I certainly however will never pick up a job at a microwave popcorn factory.