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CINCINNATI - The Kroger Co.'s Denver-based King Soopers division, its parent company, Dillon Companies Inc., and food distributor Inter-American Products Inc., are being sued by a suburban Denver man believed to be the only consumer to develop "popcorn lung" from regular servings of microwave popcorn.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages on behalf of plaintiff Wayne Watson, stated that the companies "failed to warn that preparing microwave popcorn in a microwave oven as intended and smelling the buttery aroma could expose the consumer to an inhalation hazard and a risk of lung injury."
Watson's case of "popcorn lung" and his two-bags-a-day diet gained national attention last year when doctors at National Jewish Hospital diagnosed him with the rare lung condition that has been linked to the flavor chemical diacetyl, according to press reports.
A spokeswoman for Cincinnati-based Kroger said the company does not comment on lawsuits.
Popcorn lung, officially called bronchiolitis obliterans, has been historically linked with people who worked in microwave popcorn plants mixing large vats of flavors. Hundreds of workers have said they have severe lung disease or other respiratory illnesses from inhaling diacetyl vapors.
The chemical has been the subject of hundreds of lawsuits against the companies that that produce or use the butter flavoring.