PRESS RELEASEToday a consumer of microwave popcorn filed suit against butter flavoring companies and microwave popcorn manufacturers.
The suit was filed on behalf of Elaine Khoury by Humphrey, Farrington & McClain of Independence and Morgan and Morgan of Ft. Meyers, Florida.
This is the first consumer microwave popcorn case filed by the firm in Missouri.
Missouri has been a hot-bed of butter flavoring litigation. In 2004 a $20 million dollar verdict was obtained for Eric Peoples of Carthage, Missouri. Peoples and over thirty of his co-workers from the Jasper popcorn plant in Jasper, Missouri sued International Flavors and Fragrances for severe lung injuries. Two additional verdicts of $15 million and $2.7 million were obtained before all the cases from the Jasper plant were settled.
This is the third consumer case filed by the McClain firm. National news was made when Wayne Watson from Denver, Colorado filed suit in federal court for similar injuries. Last September, Larry Newkirk of Spokane, Washington became the second consumer diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans. Like Wayne Watson, Larry Newkirk became sick after eating 4 to 6 bags of buttery microwave popcorn a day for several years. "Eating the popcorn is not the problem," said Ken McClain, lead attorney for Khoury, "it is inhaling the butter vapors when the bag is opened that is causing the lung problems."
The disease bronchiolitis obliterans is caused by breathing microwave butter flavor. The chemical in the butter flavor, diacetyl, is a ketone. This ketone damages lung tissue and causes permanent non-reversible damage. The major microwave popcorn companies recently began marketing diacetyl-free microwave popcorn. "The problem is that nobody knows what kind of chemicals are in the replacement product," said Mr. McClain.
Some of the patients suffering from this condition have been placed on lung transplant lists. At least one has had a lung transplant.
"These problems were predictable and avoidable," said Mr. McClain. "The R & D workers at Jasper were found to suffer from bronchiolitis obliterans at a very high rate. Their only job was to pop popcorn in microwave ovens."
Unfortunately, the problem appears to be increasing. "We get calls from consumers every day" said Steven Crick of the firm. The firm currently represents over 500 injured individuals across the country. They have filed suit in Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio and Washington.
Kenneth B. McClain