Tuesday, July 8, 2014

How to Make Popcorn in a Brown Lunch Bag

If you search the Internet for the "dangers of microwave popcorn" you will find numerous articles describing the health risks associated with consuming microwave popcorn.  Most of these articles suggest microwave popcorn can increase the risk for lung disease and even certain types of cancers.  The association with microwave popcorn and cancer is due to a compound called perfluorooctanoic acid, a chemical used in the nonstick coating of the inside of the bag. While the connection between lung disease and microwave popcorn is linked diacetyl, a naturally-occuring chemical used as a flavoring agent.

The good news is that the association between microwave popcorn and cancer is not well proven.  A chemical used on the inside of popcorn bags, perfluorooctanoic acid, has been associated with certain types of cancers.  However these cases were not directly linked with popcorn bags.

On the other hand, diacetyl, the natural flavoring agent added to microwave popcorn to provide the buttery flavor, has been directly linked to a rare lung disease.  In 2000 a case of 8 workers in a production plant of microwave popcorn was investigated by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).  More recently in 2012 a man was awarded a settlement for developing the rare lung disease after eating large amounts of microwave popcorn.

What does the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) say?
According to a statement at Popcorn.org, the FDA deems microwave safe for humans to eat.  They note "The popcorn processing industry has and will continue to work collaboratively - an an industry, and with food, health, safety and regulatory agencies - to produce a safe, quality product for consumers to enjoy."

Take the Worry Out and Skip the Packaged Microwave Popcorn
To be cautious and reduce the risk of these noted health dangers skip the packaged microwave popcorn and make your own. All you need is a brown paper bag, corn kernels, and a microwave (oil, salt, and seasonings are optional).  Please note that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) warns against using brown paper bags (specifically recycled) as they can be made with unknown materials that can catch fire.  With this being said I have made my own microwave popcorn in a small brown paper bag numerous times with no difficulty - the musts are to use a small plain (non-recyled) brown paper bag and stand at the microwave during the entire duration of cooking.

How to Make Microwave Popcorn in Brown Paper Bag
Prep Time: 2-5 minutes
Cook Time: 1-4 minutes
  • 1/4 cup popcorn kernels
  • small brown paper bag (not-recycled)
  • optional: 1/4 teaspoon oil or 1/8 teaspoon salt
1. Add kernels to brown paper bag and fold over bag at least 3 times
2. Place in microwave (make sure top of bag does not touch top of microwave) and microwave for about 2 minutes or until kernels stop popping (I typically set time for 1 minute and 50 seconds).
Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any damage to microwave caused.
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Your family's dietitian,
Kristen Smith


  1. Interesting, something I am aware of!

  2. Definitely a great summary of the dangers of "Popcorn Lung". If you really want to step it up though, there are other methods vastly superior to the brown bag method. My favorite is still the Whirley Pop but there are several devices made specifically for the microwave as well.

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