Tag Archives: producer

Popcorn and the Movies – Popcorn Lung Disease

It is that season again—the Golden Globes; Academy Awards and all the fashion and anticipation.  I

List of U.S. state foods

know people who attend two and three movies a day just in anticipation of the big night so they can make “educated” guesses to who the winners will be.

As for me, I go to the movies for one main reason—I love the popcorn AND the butter that I put all over it and go into the dark room and eat every piece one by one.  At least that is what I used to do until I started reading one too many articles on the chemicals in the popcorn—more specifically the flavoring and coloring that is used.  The first article I remember reading was published in USA Today on September 5, 2007 titled:  “Popcorn Makers Work to Remove Chemical”.  The article reported that:

“…The nation’s largest microwave popcorn maker, Con Agra Foods Inc. will change the recipe for its Orville Redenbacher and Act II brands over the next year to remove a flavoring chemical linked to a lung ailment in popcorn plant workers.  Four of the nation’s biggest microwave popcorn makers are working to remove a flavoring chemical after a leading lung research hospital warned that consumers also could be in danger from the buttery flavoring Diacetyl. The chemical Diacetyl has been linked to cases of Bronchiolitis Obliterans, a rare life-threatening disease often called Popcorn Lung…”

Now that’s a disease that was not on my list of neuroses—Popcorn Lung Disease! As I read the article not only was I convinced I had the disease but my insurance brain kicked in gear and I saw all sorts of insurance issues including the obvious Workers Compensation; Products Liability and the potential for Mass Tort Litigation (MTL); the issue of the long term occurrence and which carrier(s) would tender notice and which would tender defense.

Clearly the story did not end there– in fact that was just the beginning.  In an article published on on 10/25/11 titled,  “Diacetyl Popcorn Worker Lawsuit Filed over Health Problems”, details are provided on a lawsuit filed by workers in an Illinois popcorn manufacturer facility for injuries caused by Diacetyl.  The lawsuits are referred to as the Popcorn Lung Lawsuits alleging that the workers were repeatedly exposed to the chemical on their job. The plaintiffs allege they have suffered lung cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other respiratory and pulmonary ailments as a result of Diacetyl exposure. They accuse the manufacturers of failing to warn workers about the risks associated with exposure to the chemical, and of failing to provide for the safety of workers who might be exposed to the chemical.

The list of defendants in the lawsuit is long and far reaching including:  Berje, Centrome, Chemtura Corporation, Consumers Flavoring Extract Co., DSM Food Specialties, Flavor Concepts, Fona International, Frutarom USA, Givaudan Flavor Corporation, International Flavors and Frangrances, Kerry, O’Laughlin Industries, Penta Manufacturing, Phoenix Essantial Oils and Aromas, Sethness-Greenleaf, Sigma-Aldrich Corporation, Virginia Dare Extract and Wild Flavors.

More than 300 popcorn lung disease lawsuits have been filed nationwide, with most of those coming from employees of popcorn manufacturers. However, a growing number of popcorn consumers have been diagnosed with the disease and have filed lawsuits against companies that manufactured or used the flavoring.  One of the largest awards to date was awarded to a man who worked at a Flavorchem Corp. plant in the Chicago area for $30 million in a Popcorn Lung lawsuit. According to a report in the Joplin Globe, the verdict is the largest rendered to date in a lawsuit involving the chemical Diacetyl, an ingredient in butter flavoring. The verdict in the case was awarded to Gerardo Solis, 45, who worked at the Flavorchem plant between1998 and 2006 when he was diagnosed with Popcorn Lung. The lawsuit named BASF Corp., a supplier of diacetyl and the world’s largest chemical company, as a defendant.

While some of the larger microwave popcorn manufacturers have stopped using Diacetyl, the chemical is still used in thousands of products, including microwave popcorn, frozen foods, cake mixes and butter flavored cooling oils. Unfortunately, it is not often listed on ingredient labels, so there is no way for consumers to protect themselves from exposure. When the chemical is heated, say in a microwave, it is released into the air in vapor form.

In June of 2007, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) was informed of a patient who had developed Bronchiolitis Obliterans despite never having worked in the popcorn or flavorings industry. Reportedly, the man had been eating at least two bags of butter-flavored microwave popcorn every day for 15 years prior to his diagnosis. The FDA is now investigating to see if his disease is linked to the consumption of Diacetyl in microwave popcorn. Watson’s doctor theorized that the inhalation of Diacetyl fumes from bags of microwave popcorn caused his illness.

As we look at the various lawsuits and insurance response the issues of occurrence; application of deductible; and SIR are at the heart of the arguments.  In the case of International Flavors & Fragrances, Inc. v. Royal Ins. Co. of America (Appellate Division, First Department; 10/30/07) the specific issues of Toxic Popcorn Long as relates occurrence, deductibles and SIRs were discussed.  In the case, a number of employees of a manufacturing plant claimed toxic exposure to substance found in butter flavoring. The battle, not uncommon in claims of this nature, was between the insurer and the insured over the number of occurrences as each was subject to its own deductible for products liability claims.

International Flavors & Fragrances, Inc. (IFF) entered a declaratory judgment action against its insurers, including AIG seeking a declaration of coverage under eight general liability insurance policies in connection with a class action lawsuit filed against plaintiffs in Missouri by 30 current and former employees of nonparty Gilster. The underlying plaintiffs alleged that IFF manufactured and sold butter flavoring to Gilster used in microwave popcorn packaged in its Missouri facility. The butter flavoring contains diacetyl was alleged to cause lung impairment and other respiratory system injuries. IFF admitted that at least 18 separate shipments of butter flavoring were sent to the Missouri plant from 1992 through 1996. In dispute is the application of deductibles or “self-insured retentions” (SIRs) in the amount of $100,000 or $50,000 for each “occurrence,” which is uniformly defined in all of the policies as “an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions.”

AIG claimed each personal injury claim was a separate occurrence which applied a separate deductible. IFF claimed that the exposure was a single occurrence with one deductible. After a long and fairly well-reasoned discussion, the court determined that under the language of the policy, there was no occurrence without injury and there was no injury until there was exposure and illness. Accordingly, the court found that each individual plaintiff suffered an accident upon being injured by the exposure so there were 30 accidents, and not one.

And the cases continue to be filed across the country.  So not as to ruin your next experience at a movie theatre or at home while watching the awards show I suggest you consider vodka instead of popcorn.  At least that is what I am doing this year!


Tags: , , , , ,

Planning for Success in 2012

Most of us recognize the importance of planning. 

We have all heard the clever phrases, “people don’t plan to fail…they fail to plan.”  Or, “an arrow without a target will never hit its mark…” or “any road leads to nowhere.”  True, true and true again!

Yet few of us actually plan our sales years.  Why?  The most common answer is often, “I don’t know how.”   Or, “I don’t have time.” Or, “I don’t keep records and therefore don’t have any data.”

We’ve seen planning methodologies run the gamut – from very simple and fundamental to frighteningly complex.  Both extremes and everything in between have their own merits; and their success is largely based on the appropriateness of their application to a producer’s tenure, new business run rate, size of their book, practice specialty, etc., and for agencies their size, business model, EBITDA targets and a host of other metrics.

However, there are some fundamentals to follow to create a planning process appropriate for you, the reader.  As such, we are providing some steps below to make your planning process easier:

Step 1:  Take an assessment.
Assessment results will be a great look into what you are doing well and what you need to develop in order to move forward.  This is a great place to start your planning process because each year, as you grow and change so too will change the areas you need to focus on, build, re-align or outright abandon.   A third party assessment has no other agenda than to help identify where you are strong and where the opportunities are for development.  Assessments can also help you identify gaps and ‘missing pieces’ to your resources or toolsets that, if remedied, can prove to help you move forward.

Step 2:  Establish your metrics.
This is often the place where most people stumble.  An agency in the $5M-$15M of topline revenue needs to measure nearly 60 metrics in order to properly diagnose and manage it’s growth and profitability.  Producers with $1M+ books need to keep tabs on 18-22 different metrics in order to continue to grow and fill in teams under them to support that growth.   If you have never tracked metrics before – start now and start simple!  Whether it’s first appointments, hours prospected, accounts closed, introductions received, etc., pick 3-5 metrics that make sense to you and count up all the activity that occurred within those categories.  There are many activity planners and worksheets that you can use to help with this – choose one that makes sense to you and add/delete any metric categories that you feel are/are not applicable to your practice.  Over time, you will see things in your sales process that you would like to measure and will add metrics to measure those down the road.  Again, the key here is to start with a few metrics and add over time.  Those that start with very sophisticated metrics often abandon measuring because they started too big.  Keep it simple to start and add later.

Step 3. Research your market, competition and customers.
This may sound like a bigger project than it actually is….here’s a tip:  Google!  In less than an hour you can Google your top competitors and read their press releases to see where they are headed.  You can find a free whitepaper and see trends in the industries where you have most of your customers.  Check where things are and where trends appear to be heading and incorporate into your plan for next year.

Step 4. Use a Planning Guide to assemble the pieces.
Your agency may have one, industry associations often make one available to it’s membership –  and you can use resources like Jian or others that have business plans you can download for under $100.00.  Find one you like, or modify one to your liking, and let the framework guide you in filling in the data you’ve collected.   These take about an hour or two to complete and they can take you or your agency in directions you may have not previously considered making this a very worthwhile process.

Step 5.  Lock down your plan by running it by your trusted advisors.
Send your plan out to at least 3-5 people you trust for an honest and unbiased opinion.  Having some input from others on your plan will help you gauge if you are being too ambitious with it or provide you with potential obstacles to consider and recognize early so you’re not caught by surprise.  Simply put, collect feedback on your plan.

Step 6. Execute, Monitor, Adjust
Pick a date to launch your new plan.  Is it January 1st?  Is it the beginning of a new fiscal quarter?  Your favorite Holiday?  It doesn’t matter when but you need to pick a date!  Use the metrics you established to measure what is happening  – the results being generated by your new plan and the inputs that generate those results.  Monitoring your metrics will help you make adjustments and refinements to your plan.  If you are not making adjustments, improvements and enhancements over time to your plan – something is amiss.  Very few plans (less than 5%) can exist over a 12 month period without some adjustment and be successful.  Keep in mind these plans are living – not static.  So by measuring and monitoring your metrics during the course of your plan you will be able to make adjustments and create a continuous improvement loop that will help you generate fabulous results.

In summary, investing your time in developing a game plan for 2012 will serve you in many ways.  By breaking up the process into the simple steps above, and utilizing available assessment and planning tools the process will become much easier and productive than attempting to re-create the wheel on your own.

Here’s wishing you a successful 2012 from all of us here at Rainmaker Advisory LLC.

Rainmaker Advisory LLC is a results oriented sales and operations consulting firm specializing in the retail insurance broking sector. Founded in 2008, Rainmaker has relationships with over 7,800 insurance agencies and brokerages nationwide in all practice specialties. Through offices in California, New York and Oregon, Rainmaker Advisory is a leading provider of the tools, resources and vendor partners necessary for successfully growing organizations on a sustainable basis.

For more information, visit

Written By: David E Estrada
Founder & Managing Director
Rainmaker Advisory LLC


Tags: , , , , , ,