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HSE Safety warning in coffee and flavouring manufacture.

Published on 7 February 2023 | Modified on 7 February 2023

Written by Georgina Emery

Personal Injury

HSE Safety warning in coffee and flavouring manufacture.


The HSE has issued a safety alert with regards to exposure to diacetyl vapour in the manufacture of food and drink in particular flavouring, coffee manufacture and the manufacture of some beers.


Diacetyl is naturally occurring but can also be manufactured and is often used as a flavouring. Synthetic diacetyl is classified as a hazardous substance because it is toxic if inhaled and can cause skin irritation and eye damage by contact and is harmful if swallowed.


HSE studies have shown that heating diacetyl above certain temperatures significantly increases the airborne amounts and there is an increased risk of exposure above safe limits.


The Workplace Exposure Limits should be contained within the suppliers safety data sheets and are at 20 parts per billion (ppb) or 0.02 parts per million over an 8-hr time weighted average and 100 ppb or 0.10 ppm over a 15-min period.


In respect of coffee manufacture the HSE have confirmed that concentrations of the vapour have been found to be significantly greater if the roasted beans are ground when still warm.  This is reduced if the beans are cooled between roasting and grinding to room temperature.


In respect of flavour manufacture the potential for exposure over safe limits is increased if flavour mixtures with diacetyl even at low concentration of below 5% are heated, added to hot processes or spray dried.


Exposure to the vapour can lead to severe lung disease.


Employers are required to carry out risk assessments having regard to the use or occurrence of diacetyl in their processes. If there is a reasonable risk of exposure, they must also have in place a health surveillance program.


Should you be diagnosed with an respiratory illness which you believe could be due to exposure to hazardous dust or vapours at work, please feel free to contact our Personal Injury team who have over 30 years’ experience of helping people recover compensation on 01270 762325 or We are happy to help.

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