Microwave Popcorn’s 3 Dirty Little Secrets

It’s Friday night, and the family settles down for a movie. But, what would a great flick be without some popcorn?

The microwave did to popcorn what the automobile did to horses. In with the new, out with the old. Hardly anyone cooks popcorn “the old-fashioned way” anymore. Who wants to mess with getting the hot air popper out and cleaning it, or waiting for oil to get hot on the stove?

There are hundreds of varieties of microwave popcorn available to choose from and it is so easy to simply put the bag in the oven and wait just a couple of minutes for your snack.

Unfortunately, as convenient as the microwave popcorn may be, it is not the healthiest choice.

The Good News

According to Jeffrey Smith, executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology and a leading GMO expert, even though 90 percent of all corn grown in America is GMO, popcorn is not because it comes from a different seed that has yet to be tampered with. While this is good news, what follows may be just what it takes to turn you back to the popcorn of yesteryear.

Chemical Coating in Microwave Bags

Many microwave popcorn bags are heavily treated with a chemical coating (fluorotelomer), best known as Teflon. This coating contains mixtures of long-chain chemicals that can be metabolized to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a likely carcinogen.

Bags are dangerous because the amount of coating is extremely high and the popcorn is heated to extreme temperatures, which increases the risk of the fluorotelomers entering the food.

Fake Butter

A new study has found that a chemical in the artificial butter flavoring used on microwave popcorn, as well as in some candies, baked treats and margarines, can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, or worsen the condition if it is already present.

The ingredient in question is diacetyl, also known as DA. A research team at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis discovered that the structure of DA has distinct similarities to the substance responsible for forming beta-amyloid proteins.

Beta-amyloid proteins, in excess numbers, sometimes clump together to form plaque on neurons. This neural plaque is a strong indicator of Alzheimer’s disease.
To test their theory that DA could have these beta-amyloid-producing effects, the scientists grew nerve cells in a laboratory and exposed them to DA.

They found that the DA led to an increase in beta-amyloid clumps formed on the cells and that the clumping led to toxic damage to the cells. This study was published in Chemical Research in Toxicology.

DA has been under scrutiny by several older studies, which linked it to breathing trouble in those working at food-flavoring and microwave popcorn factories. While the exposure levels were high in the factory employees, die-hard microwave popcorn fans may well experience ill effects as chemicals are often stored in the body and accumulate over time.


Non-organic conventional popcorn (most microwave popcorn) is a crop that is heavily covered in pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers. The 2013 Agri-Chemical Handbook tells the sad truth.

Since the 1940s, pesticide use has increased tenfold. In fact, it is estimated that more than 1.2 billion pounds of pesticides are utilized in growing agricultural products in the United States every year.

It is easy to be lulled into thinking that it’s just a little bit of pesticide that you ingest every time you eat popcorn. The reality is that even a little bit of pesticide ingestion can wreak havoc on your body. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are more than 55 pesticides commonly used to grow foods commercially that contain cancer-causing chemicals.

In addition to cancer-causing chemicals, numerous pesticides also contain endocrine disruptors. These chemicals have been known to cause changes to hormones in humans. Endocrine disruptor chemicals can cause feminizing characteristics in males and masculine characteristics in females.

Dangerous neurotoxins are also present in many pesticides. They may interrupt cognitive development in children and contribute to dementia symptoms in adults.
It’s not just about the popcorn you eat either.

The United States’ use of pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and fungicides is disrupting the delicate natural balance of our planet’s food chain, today more so than ever in history. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), over 700 million pounds of pesticides are used by farmers to treat their crops each year.

PopcornThis is approximately double the amount used 30 years ago. Additionally, the chemicals used are now between 10 and 100 times more potent. The frightening fact is, only about one percent of the pesticides used on crops even reach the “pests” they are intended to eliminate; the remaining 99 percent leaches into the environment with no added benefit.

The environmental impact of this widespread pesticide use is huge. Statistics compiled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service show that pesticides are a major threat to endangered species, including migratory birds, and their habitats.

More Good News

Don’t fret, you can still enjoy delicious, even better than microwave, popcorn without the worry of ingesting harmful chemicals. Make popcorn on the stove using organic popcorn and organic virgin coconut oil and top it with some Himalayan salt and organic butter. For a special twist, add some organic parmesan or cheddar cheese.

This yummy and healthy treat is sure to please the whole family on your next movie night!

-The Alternative Daily


Recommended Articles