44 more plaintiffs in lawsuit involving popcorn plant

Wednesday, August 8, 2007 | 12:54 p.m. CDT; updated 11:41 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

JASPER — Forty-three current or former workers at a southwest Missouri microwave-popcorn packaging plant have joined in the suit claiming they sustained lung damage by working with a butter flavoring.

A man who lived near the Jasper Popcorn Co. plant also filed suit in the second round of legal action against International Flavors and Fragrances Inc. of New York and its subsidiary, New Jersey-based Bush Boake Allen Inc. The suits seek damages over use of diacetyl in the flavoring.

Diacetyl is a chemical linked to bronchiolitis obliterans, a rare progressive disease more commonly known as popcorn lung.

Since 2004, 43 Jasper workers have either won verdicts or received settlements.

The new lawsuits brought by Independence, Mo., attorney Ken McClain names three new defendants: Givaudan Flavors, another maker of a butter flavoring used at the plant; and Aldrich Chemical Co. and Sigma-Aldrich Inc., suppliers of acetaldehyde, a chemical ingredient in the flavoring alleged to make exposure to diacetyl even more deadly.

McClain said more than 300 workers were potentially exposed at the plant. In 2002, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health identified 117 workers with abnormal lung conditions.

One worker named in the first round of lawsuits died of lung disease in 2006. McClain said eight others have been evaluated for lung transplants, but none have received a transplant.

“This is a tragedy that is repeating itself across the country,” McClain said.

Messages seeking comment from the companies named in the suit were not returned.

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