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Kroger to Appeal ‘Popcorn Lung’ Verdict

CINCINNATI — Kroger Co. here said it plans to appeal a jury’s verdict this week that awarded $7.2 million to a man who claims he contracted a respiratory disease from eating store-brand microwave popcorn daily for years.

The man, Wayne Watson, 59, had filed suit against Kroger Co. and its Dillon Cos. division, which operates King Soopers in the Denver market, as well as the private-label maker of the popcorn, Chester, Ill.-based Gilster-Mary Lee Corp., claiming the companies failed to provide warnings on the labels that the popcorn contained an ingredient believed to cause illness.

A Kroger spokesman told SN the company’s attorneys were reviewing the decision and planned to file an appeal. Kroger was found liable for 20% of the damages, and the supplier for 80%.

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According to reports, Watson was diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans — known as "popcorn lung" because it has previously been found in popcorn-factory workers exposed to fumes from a chemical flavoring ingredient called diacetyl — after eating two packages a day of microwave popcorn for several years.

Reports quoted a Gilster-Mary Lee spokesperson as saying the company was “disappointed by the decision of the jury” and that the manufacturer stopped using diacetyl by 2008.

The Kroger spokesman told SN the chain continues to source popcorn from the supplier.

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