Missouri Jury Awards Former Popcorn Plant Worker $2.7 Million for Injuries Caused by Chemicals Used to Make Butter Flavoring

A 36-year-old former popcorn plant worker, who believed his respiratory illness resulted from a chemical used to make butter flavoring, sued his former employer. After a trial, the jury agreed and awarded $2.7 million dollars.

Kenneth Moenning is one of 30 former and current workers at Jasper Popcorn Co., who have sued International Flavors and Fragrances Inc., and subsidiary of Bush Boake Allen Inc.

The plaintiffs claim the company knew that it was using chemicals that cause lung cancer to synthesize butter flavor and did not warn workers.

Moenning worked in the plant’s flavoring room from 1993-1996 and experts testified that his lung disease resulted directly from exposure to diacetyl and other chemicals used to make butter flavor.

Moenning has bronchiolitis obliterans a rapidly progressing rare lung disease that doctors testified would require a transplant.

Defense attorneys stated that management was unaware of the danger the chemicals posed to employees. "Someone is trying to blame the defendants for something no one knew or could have known," said Mike Patton, the attorney for International Flavors and Fragrances, in his closing arguments.

The jury deliberated for seven hours. When it returned its verdict on Tuesday in Jasper County Circuit Court, nine jurors (the minimum necessary) supported a $2.69 million  award to Moenning and 50, 000 for his wife. Moenning had asked for $20 million, plus $5 million for his wife for emotional suffering.

While health officials claim microwave popcorn is safe, they admit that the chemicals released during popping require additional study. If pre-packaged, fake flavored foods tastes too good to be true, the recent verdict suggests they probably are.

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