Diacetyl vapour in food and drink production
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have issued an alert highlighting the health risks of diacetyl vapour in food and drink production.
What is diacetyl?
Diacetyl vapour is a naturally occurring organic compound which is a by-product of coffee roasting and grinding and can also be manufactured synthetically and used as a flavouring.
Even if diacetyl is present at low concentrations within mixtures or flavourings, exposure to its vapour may be above safe workplace exposure limits (WELs) and can lead to severe and irreversible lung disease bronchiolitis obliterans – more commonly referred to as “popcorn lung”
What are the risks from diacetyl vapour:
- in coffee roasting. Diacetyl is naturally occurring by-product of coffee roasting and grinding but the amount produced is temperature dependent. More Diacetyl is produced if beans are ground when warm ( around 40°C) and less if the beans are cooled between roasting and grinding e.g. at room temperature (around 16-20°C)
- in flavour manufacture. As with coffee bean grinding, there is increased risk if flavour mixtures contain diacetyl are warmer e.g. added to hot processes or spray dried. The risk of exposure can occur during any stage of the process from opening containers to mixing to cleaning vessels or spillages.
What should you do?
- Assess the risk – complete a risk assessment
- Check the safety data sheet – reach out to suppliers if diacetyl is not mentioned
- Sample – if potential for exposure, verify if it is above WEL
- Substitute – is a safer alternative an option
- Control exposure –
- Keep flavour temperature below 4°C
- Cool beans to below 20°C before grinding
- Enclose the process and use ventilation
If exposure controls cannot be achieved:
- consider suitable PPE
- introduce a health surveillance programme
Added benefit… Carbon monoxide is also known to be a by-product in coffee processing. Control of diacetyl through enclosure and extraction will also help control CO emissions. Safer Food Scores consultants can assist with your health and safety risk assessments.