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NORA Manufacturing Sector Strategic Goals

927ZBKP - Exposures and Engineering Controls in the Flavoring Industry

Start Date: 10/1/2006
End Date: 9/30/2009

Principal Investigator (PI)
Organization: NIOSH
Sub-Unit: DSHEFS
Funded By: NIOSH

Primary Goal Addressed

Secondary Goal Addressed

Attributed to Manufacturing


Project Description

Short Summary

Since April 2006, seven workers have been identified with severe fixed obstructive lung disease associated with occupational exposures at four flavoring manufacturers in California. Previous NIOSH health hazard evaluations have documented this rare, respiratory disease within the popcorn industry and flavoring manufacturing industry. Both the flavoring industry and the food production industry have remained largely unstudied. Objectives of this project are to conduct a complete exposure assessment, evaluate potential engineering controls within the flavoring industry and to create appropriate work practice advice to reduce occupational exposures in these industries. Although a dose response curve for various flavoring compounds and associated health effects has not been established, improved work practices and engineer control advice can minimize occupational exposures. This project aligns with the manufacturing sector goal 2 ( i.e .Reduce adverse health outcomes by better understanding occupational risk factors/appropriate interventions) and respiratory cross sector goal 2.3 (Prevent and reduce flavorings-induced obstructive lung disease, including bronchiolitis obliterans.) Data from initial research efforts has been very useful in preliminary rulemaking efforts for both OSHA and Cal-OSHA.


Flavors are complex mixtures which enhance the taste, texture and aroma of foods and confectionary items. Although there are thousands of flavoring compounds in use, only a minority have occupational exposure limits. Cal/OSHA is currently drafting a proposed rule on diacetyl and federal OSHA (U.S. OSHA) has announced that they are initiating rulemaking under section 6(b) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

There are very little data documenting occupational exposures in flavoring manufacturing and next to no data in the food production industry. This research effort has been designed to address specific data gaps identified by NIOSH researchers, other occupational health professionals, and others in the industry who have assessed occupational exposure to flavoring chemicals and evaluated workers for occupational health effects. The objectives of this project are (1) documenting current manufacturing processes and chemicals, including diacetyl, used in both the flavoring manufacturing and flavored food production industries; (2) characterizing current exposures to develop baseline exposure data; (3) evaluating work practices and procedures which affect exposure potential; (4) documenting engineering controls, and (5) field testing novel sampling techniques for both gravimetric, bulk and volatile sampling for diacetyl and other food flavoring compounds.

A three year study is planned. Exposure assessment procedures will include sampling for ketones ( daicetyl/acetoin), aldehydes ( acetaldehydes, benzaldehydes, etc) and organic acids for both personal and area samples. Additional powder sampling for diacetyl will also be collected. Protocol development was completed in FY 2008 and data collection efforts will begin in FY 2009. This project is a collaborative effort between field researchers with DSHEFS, and research engineers in DART; consultative assistance is often provided by researchers in DRDS.


The exposure assessment will provide valuable information on worker exposures in both the flavoring manufacturing and food production industries. The data derived from this study will and better inform NIOSH to set recommendations to protect workers. If implemented, engineering controls have the potential to dramatically reduce exposures and potentially prevent occupational disease. OSHA and Cal OSHA have also used data from this study in their preliminary rulemaking process.

Mission Relevance

This project address Manufacturing SG5: Reduce the number of respiratory conditions and diseases due to exposures in the manufacturing sector; and SG9: Enhance the state of knowledge related to emerging risks to occupational safety and health in manufacturing.

Respiratory Cross Sector / Intermediate Goal 1.3 -Prevent and reduce flavorings-induced obstructive lung disease, including bronchiolitis obliterans. Engineering Controls - SG2.

Exposure Assessment Coordinated Other Cross-Sector Programs (EACEA) Intermediate Goal 2.3 - Develop and evaluate new or improved methods for assessing environmental exposure to workplace chemicals and occupational health stressors either singly or as mixtures.

Intermediate Goal 2.6 - Develop and evaluate new or improved methods for assessing workplace exposure to physical, psychological, and other occupational health stressors.

Occupational exposures in the flavoring industry have been associated with respiratory disease, including bronchiolitis obliterans. Since April 2006, seven workers have been identified with severe fixed obstructive lung disease associated with four flavoring manufacturers in California. NIOSH health hazard evaluations have documented this rare, respiratory disease within the popcorn industry and now the flavoring manufacturing industry.

According to U.S. Census data from 2002, there were approximately 21,000 employees working in flavoring manufacturing, while 1.5 million workers are employed in food production under NAICS 311. Employers in food production facilities are generally small business owners with 89 percent employing less than 100 workers and nearly 53 percent employing less than 10 workers.

This project was developed in response to the recent reports of severe fixed obstructive lung disease in seven workers employed within the flavoring manufacturing industry. Identified knowledge gaps highlight the importance of this research need. Many parties, including public health officials (state and local), industry trade groups, labor, and other governmental stakeholders will be interested in the results of this research. The exposure characterization will serve as the basis for NIOSH recommendations to protect workers. Improved work practices and applied engineering controls could dramatically reduce occupational exposures in the flavoring and food production industries and potentially prevent respiratory diseases among workers.