Tuesday, December 2, 2014

New Health Advisory Details Food Flavoring & Scent Ingredient Manufacturing Concerns

The new “Occupational Disease Investigation: Food and Consumer Goods Flavorings,” advisory from ESIS examines food and consumer goods flavorings and scent ingredients and recommends several steps manufacturers can take to help protect their workers and mitigate claims and losses. Serious concerns have been raised about the health risks associated with employee exposure to a growing class of chemical compounds used to enhance scents and flavorings. These compounds can result in employee complaints and claims of developing respiratory conditions.

More than a decade ago, diacetyl, an additive commonly known as a buttery flavor in popcorn and other foods was linked with a serious lung condition in workers exposed to it. Since then, food processors have attempted to replace diacetyl with other flavorings. One of these new flavorings, 2, 3-Pentanedione, has also been linked to respiratory health concerns. According to NIOSH, the industry counts at least 1,000 ingredients as potential respiratory hazards. Any consumer goods business that uses scent or flavoring agents may be exposing its workers to similar compounds.

They can be complex and volatile combinations of natural and man-made chemicals, which evaporate from solids or liquids or become powders or dusts during production, and then become accessible for inhalation by workers.

In the advisory, ESIS recommends the following seven-step plan--which should remind OSH professionals of the widely used hierarchy of controls:
  1. Substitution. If a compound has proven links to health concerns, consider substituting a less hazardous ingredient with a safer alternative, whenever possible.
  2. Accommodation. If a substitution is not possible, consider alternate work assignments for workers who are particularly sensitive to certain chemical compounds.
  3. Engineering. Limit exposure by engineering closed production processes that minimize employees’ exposure to potentially dangerous chemical compounds.
  4. Education. Implement work practices and training programs to ensure safe handling and storage of these compounds.
  5. PPE. Make aprons, goggles, gloves or masks available for workers who remain at risk of exposure. 
  6. Exposure Monitoring. Monitor the effects of employee exposure through regular testing of their breathing capacity and air concentration.
  7. Partnership. Work with a claims and risk management company to gain access to additional occupational disease management resources.