Ingredient Information

Artificial Butter Flavor


Artificial butter flavor is made up of two chemical compounds, diacetyl and acetoin. These two compounds occur naturally in butter, but are synthetically produced when used as additives. Diacetyl creates the buttery feel and flavor, and acetoin creates a butter aroma.

Diacetyl is a natural product of fermentation and occurs naturally in some alcoholic beverages. It is also present in cultured milk and butter products, such as buttermilk. Acetoin occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables, as well as in butter. Artificial butter flavor is most commonly found in margarine and other oil-based products that are used to flavor popcorn.

Other Use and Industries

Diacetyl is an ingredient in mosquito repellant. Acetoin is an ingredient in cigarettes.

Health Effects

Artificial butter flavor has no nutritional content, as its purpose is to impart flavor. However, over consumption is known to cause respiratory problems. A significant number of plant workers, who inhaled the fumes of diacetyl over a long period of time period during manufacture, have developed lung disease.

There is no evidence that diacetyl is toxic when ingested in the small amount found in food. However, some are concerned that inhaling diacetyl fumes when popcorn is microwaved may be harmful. Some microwave popcorn manufacturers have removed diacetyl from their products. Artificial butter flavor causes skin and eye irritation. It also irritates the nose and throat. Dry cough is known to be a side effect of diacetyl consumption.


It is produced as a by product during fermentation of valine synthesis, when yeast produces a chemical substance, a-acetolactate which moves from the cell and turned into diacetyl. The diacetyl is then absorbed by yeast and reduces ketone groups into a chemical, acetoin, and another relatively flavorless product, 2, 3-butanediol.

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