A man from Colorado has been awarded damages of $7.2million ($6.8million AUD) for a condition known as popcorn lung.
Wayne Watson, 59, developed popcorn lung after eating a large quantity of microwave popcorn. The condition is attributed to diacetyl, the butter flavouring used to make the popcorn taste good.
The court agreed that the manufacturer and supermarket chain were found to be negligent in their failure to put a warning on the labels that diacetyl was harmful.
A big popcorn fan, Watson consumed the treat daily and was diagnosed in 2007 after years of breathing in the smell of the artificial flavouring.
The manufacturer, Glister-Mary Lee Corp, was found liable for 80 per cent of the $7,214,961, with the supermarket responsible for 20 per cent. Both companies intend to appeal the decision.
The disease, medically known as bronchiolitis obliterans, obstructs the lung, making breathing difficult.
Watson is the first consumer to have received damages over popcorn lung. But there has previously been a string of cases brought by workers at popcorn plants that use the chemical, which has connected diacetyl to health problems. There are now thought to be several popcorn lung cases pending in the US.
Diacetyl is a commonly used food flavouring that occurs naturally in alcoholic drinks and is added to foods such as popcorn and crisps. There are current investigations into its safety but the additive is legal within the food industry. The risk is far greater for workers than consumers as it take high levels of the chemical to cause damage.
Having said that, we might stop taking deep breaths of our just-out-of-the-microwave popcorn bags.