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Protecting Food Flavoring Workers From Respiratory Illnesses

Many foods contain artificial flavors. For example, when you buy grape bubble gum, there's a good chance the gum doesn't have grapes. The same is true for foods containing artificial butter flavoring. These products include an artificial taste signature. Manufacturers use these formulations to represent their respective flavors.

Artificial flavors apply to more than just junk food. Many traditional dietary staples include synthetic flavoring agents and ingredients. But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can only regulate additives that companies in the flavoring industry put in their products. They have no control over naturally occurring chemicals.

The workers producing food flavoring face health risks. These workers can encounter the following harmful substances daily:

  • Dusts
  • Vapors
  • Sprays

These chemicals can cause severe respiratory illnesses.

Employers and workers can take preventative steps to maintain a safe working environment. The FDA has also set labeling requirements to help protect workers and consumers.

Here, we'll explain the dangers food flavoring workers face. We'll also describe how people can avoid hazardous exposure to artificial flavoring chemicals. Finally, we'll discuss what you can do if you suffer harm while on the job.

Flavorings: Dangerous to Workers

Food and beverage flavorings are complex mixtures of natural ingredients and chemicals. Scientists design these chemicals to help enhance the taste of food. These chemicals often appear on a product's list of ingredients.

One way to detect these chemicals is to look for ingredients you can't pronounce. You won't get sick if you consume these chemicals in moderation. But inhaling these chemicals can be hazardous.

Exposure in the Workplace

Flavoring factories use large containers of dangerous chemicals during manufacturing. Even safety-conscious workers have a moderate chance of chemical exposure. Many of these chemicals hurt your respiratory system. This is especially true if you inhale them in high concentrations.

In 2000, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted an investigation. They examined whether employees at a microwave popcorn packaging plant had health problems.

The researchers found a connection between chemical vapors from food flavorings and decreased lung function. This could contribute to severe lung disease. The chemicals can obstruct your airway, making breathing difficult.

Health Complications From Flavoring Exposure

Many food flavoring production workers suffer from respiratory illness. This is a serious concern, especially for people who have worked in this industry for a long time. You may suffer various ailments depending on concentration levels and exposure limits.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some of the adverse health effects food flavoring employees develop due to occupational exposure include:

  • Flavorings-related lung disease
  • Bronchiolitis obliterans
  • Lung injury/lung transplant
  • Respiratory disease
  • Pulmonary complications
  • Respiratory tract infection
  • Airway obstruction
  • Obstructive lung disease

The most common symptoms of these conditions are coughing and shortness of breath. The NIOSH study found that affected workers saw their cough go away when they stopped working near flavoring chemicals. But the shortness of breath often persists and may be chronic.

Plant workers who develop occupational lung disease may not know they're sick for years after exposure. Most employees don't realize their company engages in unsafe work practices. Many companies don't offer their staff respiratory protection despite Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) warnings.

How Food Flavoring Workers Can Protect Themselves

It's hard for manufacturing plant managers to know which chemicals cause lung problems. Therefore, NIOSH advises workers to handle all chemicals with great care. The best way to avoid respiratory hazards is to reduce your chances of potential exposure.

Below are some valuable tips for workers to better protect themselves and their respiratory health:

  • Use control devices to prevent the release of flavoring chemicals into the air
  • Carefully read the labels and instructions on the containers of flavorings
  • Ask your employer for training on the health hazards of food flavorings
  • Keep flavoring containers tightly closed
  • Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, goggles, and a respirator
  • Report health issues to your doctor and employer immediately

The good news is that there are laws protecting Americans from work hazards. If your company failed to put proper engineering controls in place or doesn't provide you with PPE, contact an attorney. You should also see your healthcare provider.

Company Requirements To Protect Employees

The law requires employers to take specific steps to protect their workers. For example, the FDA limits how much artificial flavoring companies can add to their food products. OSHA also sets standards that food manufacturers must follow.

Employers of flavoring production facilities should take these steps to protect their employees' health:

  • Provide employees with PPE, especially if they are at risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals
  • Provide respiratory evaluation, such as breathing tests (spirometry) regularly
  • Evaluate patterns of reports of exposure and work to resolve those issues
  • Limit hazardous exposure by using an effective ventilation system in the factory
  • Separate the handling and mixing of dangerous chemicals
  • Mix chemicals in a separate area
  • Consider using a less harmful chemical
  • Establish safety protocols limiting the release of chemical vapors and dust
  • Post warnings of hazardous chemicals and provide appropriate labeling and instructions

Many workers carry dust home from work with them. This poses a risk to public health, especially to the worker's family. It's important that flavoring manufacturing companies take these preventive measures.

A Personal Injury Attorney Can Help

If you work in the food production industry, you risk developing many injuries. People injured on the job can file a worker's compensation claim. While you can handle your claim, these cases can become quite complex. Meeting with an experienced workers comp attorney is in your best interest.

You can still file a personal injury or product liability claim if your case isn't work-related. Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer so they can review your case. If your claim has merit, they can file suit on your behalf and pursue damages.

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