Friday, October 26, 2012


Strange are the ways consumers behave in an environment of plenty. America is a land of gluttony offering the consumer thousands of processed foods with a variety of processing aids used by the industry, all supposed to be "safe". Unfortunately the safety credentials of most of them are derived from limited studies with doubtful scientific evidence. Here is a typical example of a consumer who gorged regularly microwaved pop corn for a long time with amazing regularity as being claimed by him and then suing the company for the health problems experienced by him. Unfortunately the judicial system in the US without proper scientific validation of the claim that the diacetyl used for imparting the butter flavor was responsible for his lung ailment, awarded huge compensation to the person. Here are some details of this case which should cause worry to food processing industry in that country.  

"Wayne Watson's love of popcorn almost turned deadly after he developed respiratory problems in 2007 known as "popcorn lung", according to ABC news. Watson, a Denver native, says he ate about two bags of popcorn everyday for 10 years, and developed the rare disease possibly from inhaling the artificial butter smell of the microwave popcorn. On Wednesday, Watson won a $7.2 million verdict against Gilster-Mary Lee Corp., The Kroger Co. and Dillon Companies Inc., for his illness. "I probably look like a fairly healthy guy but I only have, on a good day, about 53 percent lung capacity," Watson told ABC News. Popcorn lung is usually found in plant workers exposed to high levels of diacetyl, an artificial flavoring used to give popcorn that buttery taste.  Watson sued the popcorn maker and the supermarket that sold it, Kroger, claiming the companies never warned consumers that diacetyl – also recently linked to Alzheimer's–was dangerous. "They thought that no consumer would ever be exposed to enough of it to make a difference well they rolled the dice and they lose," Watson told ABC News. Defense attorneys argued that Watson's health problems stemmed from working with carpet-cleaning chemicals for years, according to KCNC-TV in Denver. Watson previously settled claims against the flavor developer FONA International Inc., formerly Flavors of North America Inc., according to The Associated Press. As for the money, Watson plans on giving some to charity, but says he will not be buying microwave popcorn".

If this trend continues probably consumers should be able to sue even water bottling industry as water can be toxic when consumed in large quantities. For that matter any thing consumed in excess can be dangerous to life and this must be realized by the consumer. Of course in a country where Cigarette industry was smothered by judicial awards of compensation to the tune of billions of dollars, it should not be a surprise that the "hungry" attorneys would pick up any issue that can be pitch forked into lime light to earn such huge compensation. Why the cigarette industry had to fork out the compensation to smokers who willingly smoked cigarettes knowing about its health hazard or why the government did not prohibit tobacco cultivation or cigarette manufacture is still a mystery! This is not to defend many of the practices of consumer industry sector which may not be justifiable but there must be a level playing field with no disadvantage to either the consumer or to the industry.


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