NEW YORK: Manufacturers of microwave popcorn spent last week using media relations to assure consumers their product was safe, following a report that linked a serious lung condition to exposure to diacetyl, which helps give the product its buttery taste.
Pop Weaver brought in Y&L PR, a division of the company’s ad agency Young & Laramore, to assist with responding to the media coverage surrounding the issue. Cathy Yingling, managing director for Y&L, said the company was in the enviable position of being able to tell consumers they were the only microwave popcorn manufacturer that had already completed a switch away from diacetyl.
“We’ve been reaching out to all of our media contacts to remind them that, yes, our products are already free of diacetyl flavoring,” Yingling said. “Phase two will be reaching out to bloggers, because obviously there’s a lot of interest and chatter out there online.”
ConAgra Foods, the largest producer of microwave popcorn in the country, issued a statement detailing the company’s interest in the diacetyl issue. Stephanie Childs, director of communications for ConAgra, said the decision had been taken to eliminate the ingredient in its popcorn within one year. But she said the company was assuring consumers that in the meantime, they are confident of the product’s safety.
“The decision had been made prior to this story, based on the known potential risk for employees who handle large quantities of it,” said Childs. “But right now we’re focused on making sure consumers understand that microwave popcorn is safe.”
The Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA), a trade group for the companies that make the butter flavorings for popcorn producers, also responded to the controversy. In a statement the organization said they were concerned with the issue but that “the information does not suggest a risk from eating popcorn.” The group’s representative did not return calls for further comment.