'Popcorn lung' man wins £4.4m for illness caused by flavouring

Los Angeles

The convenience food industry is preparing for a flood of compensation claims after a man who fell ill as a result of inhaling fumes from bags of microwave popcorn was awarded $7.2m (£4.4m) in damages.

Wayne Watson convinced a Colorado jury that the product should carry a warning label stating that the artificial butter flavouring used can cause obliterative bronchiolitis, an irreversible illness also known as "popcorn lung".

In 2007, after years of eating the product, he developed the disease, which causes permanent scarring to the lung and makes it difficult to exhale. Research has shown that it can be caused by diacetyl, an ingredient in the butter flavouring.

Mr Watson told the court he ate two or three bags of popcorn a day, almost always smelling before he ate. "You would get that woof! That little woof when you opened it," he said.

Doctors told him that habit was likely to have caused the potentially fatal disease. He later discovered that manufacturers had done "absolutely no testing" to discover if consumers might be at risk.

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