After several highly publicized reports of illnesses following airborne exposure to diacetyl, the flavoring used in some microwave popcorns and other products, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced its intent to issue emergency rules to regulate exposure to the chemical in the workplace. The rule was largely intended to impact industrial food processors, and their employees’ development of potentially fatal lung diseases linked to diacetyl exposure.
Last week, OSHA published notice of its withdrawal of the notice of proposed rulemaking. The withdrawal was prompted by concerns over the impact of the proposed rules on small businesses. OSHA may not have been aware of the number of small food processors and related businesses that use diacetyl. As an alternative to emergency regulation of the chemical, OSHA will instead use its regular rulemaking agenda to study and to eventually propose workplace exposure rules.
In the meantime, employers that use diacetyl can be subject to OSHA inspections and citations under the General Duty Clause. All precautions called for under the chemical manufacturer’s MSDS should be strictly followed.