Walmart recently announced that you can earn a 5% credit by buying some of its healthier store-brand products. Kroger recently discovered that you can earn $7.2 million for buying its store-brand microwave popcorn.

A Colorado jury this week awarded that chunk of change to 59-year-old Wayne Watson, who says he developed a chronic condition called “popcorn lung” following his enthusiastic consumption of microwave popcorn. He blamed a chemical used to flavor the snack, that he purchased at Kroger-owned King Soopers.

The jury agreed with his assertion that the store, and the company that made the popcorn, were negligent for not warning about the dangers of the buttery-tasting-but-apparently-bad-for-you chemical called diacetyl. Manufacturer Glister-Mary Lee was ordered to pay 80% of the damages, or about $5.8 million, and King Soopers and Kroger are on the hook for the rest, around $1.4 million. The grocers say they intend to appeal.

Does that mean you should be worried if you like to eat microwave popcorn, too? Well, probably not.


First of all, most manufacturers have since stopped using diacetyl. Second of all, Watson says he ate “two or three” bags of popcorn – EVERY DAY, for TEN YEARS. That adds up to roughly 10,000 bags of microwave popcorn – and a whole lot of diacetyl.

It also likely didn’t help that he enjoyed holding the bag up to his face in order to “savor inhaling the smell”. Air quality tests conducted in his kitchen later showed diacetyl contamination at “factory levels.” In fact, factory workers have sued and won similar cases before, though Watson was the first consumer to win a case, and Kroger and King Soopers were the first retailers to lose one.

“They thought that no consumer would ever be exposed to enough of it to make a difference,” Watson told ABC News. “Well, they rolled the dice and they lose.”

Watson says he won’t be using any of his windfall to buy microwave popcorn – he doesn’t eat, or sniff, the stuff anymore. And Kroger and King Soopers likely won’t be including store-brand popcorn in a “10 for $10 sale” any time soon – lest a customer eat and inhale it all in one sitting, and then come back for more.

Actually, according to the website I Heart Kroger – this very week, Kroger microwave popcorn is indeed on sale, 10 for $10.

Will they never learn?

One Comment

  1. dear sirs. I brought a box of mini popcorn the first bag I pop had a sweet taste was there sugar added by mistake! the next one had the same. I discard the rest, the bag read NO ADDED DIACETYL A1 04;50 SELL BY NOV.03 17 THEATER BTR. check and let me know.

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