Can You Get Food Poisoning From Popcorn?

Popcorn is a popular snack worldwide for its delightful crunch and versatility. Popcorn is considered healthy because it is a whole grain, providing essential nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It is naturally low in calories, fat, and sodium, making it a satisfying and guilt-free snack. Popcorn also contains antioxidants, and when prepared without unhealthy additives, it can be a gluten-free, versatile, and minimally processed whole food.


Food poisoning from popcorn might not be an everyday occurrence, but it’s a genuine concern that often goes unnoticed and underreported. This exclusive exposé delves into the potential risks, the culprits to watch out for, and the essential tips to keep your popcorn experience delightful and safe.

The critical factor in food poisoning is contamination. Most food items can cause food poisoning if not handled or cooked correctly or stored in inappropriate conditions. Contamination can occur from production to consumption, including growth, harvesting, processing, storing, shipping, preparing, and cooking. The specific risks and likely contaminants vary significantly between different types of food.

Can You Get Food Poisoning From Popcorn?

Yes, in rare situations, you can get food poisoning from popcorn because of improper storage or contamination after cooking. Popcorn is generally considered safe because it is typically cooked at high temperatures when popping; this process usually destroys most potential contaminants, such as bacteria and viruses. 

Below are a few scenarios where popcorn might potentially lead to food poisoning:

  1. Improper storage: If popcorn is stored in a damp and warm environment, it may create a favorable condition for bacterial or fungal growth, leading to food poisoning. It’s essential to store popcorn in a cool, dry place and consume it within the recommended time frame.
  2. Contamination after cooking: Popcorn that has been popped and then exposed to contaminants can potentially cause food poisoning. This might include being handled with dirty hands or coming into contact with a contaminated surface.
  3. Added ingredients: Popcorn is unlikely to cause food poisoning, but the additives and toppings you use could pose a risk. For example, using spoiled butter or other toppings could introduce harmful bacteria or other pathogens.
  4. Microwave popcorn: While uncommon, there have been cases where microwave popcorn has been recalled due to concerns about listeria contamination. Listeria can survive the microwave’s heat and cause food poisoning.
  5. Popcorn from bulk bins: Bulk bins can be a source of contamination if they are not kept clean and dry. If popcorn is not stored correctly or customers use their hands or a contaminated scoop to serve themselves, bacteria or viruses could be introduced.

Salmonella in popcorn

Salmonella is a type of bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses, especially when food is not cooked thoroughly enough to kill off the bacteria. In this context, Salmonella has survived in popcorn preparation, indicating a potential risk for consumers if the initial bacteria count is high, approximately between 10^4 to 10^6 cells per gram of popcorn.

The science research paper (Survivability of Salmonella cells in popcorn after microwave oven and conventional cooking) suggests that popcorn cooked with lower levels of Salmonella may be safe to consume after going through standard cooking procedures, whether in a microwave oven or with conventional cooking. This implies that the heat generated from these cooking methods can effectively kill off lower levels of Salmonella.

The results showed that Salmonella cells can survive home cooking.  The researchers also found that the initial concentration of Salmonella cells in the raw products impacted their survival. The higher the initial concentration, the more likely the cells were to survive cooking.

The study warns that if the initial level of contamination in the raw popcorn kernels is similar to the high levels used in the study (greater than 10^4 cells per gram), then home preparation of popcorn could potentially lead to food safety issues. Home cooking methods might not generate enough heat or cook the popcorn thoroughly enough to kill off a high amount of Salmonella.

This information is crucial for popcorn companies. They can use these findings to create hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) plans. HACCP is a systematic preventative approach to food safety that addresses physical, chemical, and biological hazards as a means of prevention rather than finished product inspection. For popcorn manufacturers, understanding the risk and survival of Salmonella during popcorn preparation is crucial to ensuring that their product is safe for consumption.

Please read our article How Long Does Food Poisoning Last?

Popcorn Listeria Contamination

In 2012, an alarming food safety incident left popcorn lovers nationwide anxious about their favorite snack. Dale and Thomas Popcorn, a New Jersey-based popcorn producer, voluntarily recalled an estimated 700,000 bags of its flavored, ready-to-eat popcorn over fears of Listeria monocytogenes contamination.

Listeria monocytogenes is a dangerous bacterium that can cause severe foodborne illnesses, especially in individuals with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, newborns, and the elderly. This recall represented an urgent public health matter, as consumption of food contaminated with this bacterium could potentially lead to listeriosis, a rare but potentially fatal infection.

The voluntary recall was triggered when one of the products from Dale and Thomas Popcorn tested positive for the presence of Listeria during routine sampling by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The popcorn bags under scrutiny were distributed to retailers, vendors, distribution centers, and consumers through the company’s website and physical stores between August 8th and September 27th, 2012.

The company moved swiftly to mitigate the potential risks to consumers. The affected popcorn bags included multiple flavors such as Aged White Cheddar, Almond Pecan Crunch, and Chocolate Chunk N’Caramel, among others, sold under the Popcorn, Indiana brand.

The company urged consumers who had purchased the recalled products to discard them immediately or return them to the point of purchase for a full refund. Customers who had consumed the product and showed symptoms of listeriosis, including high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, were advised to seek immediate medical attention.

Dale and Thomas Popcorn also worked closely with the FDA and local health authorities to ensure the potential risk was effectively contained and that comprehensive measures were put in place to prevent similar incidents in the future. The recall prompted the company to review and enhance its food safety measures, underscoring the importance of robust testing and quality control procedures.

This popcorn recall in 2012 served as a stark reminder of the potential risks lurking in even the most unexpected of foods. It highlighted the importance of proactive safety measures in the food industry, particularly in testing and quality control. It also underscored the vital role that regulatory bodies like the FDA play in ensuring the safety of our food supply chain and protecting consumers from potential foodborne illnesses.

Food recalls are never pleasant but are sometimes necessary to ensure consumer safety. Dale and Thomas Popcorn’s recall demonstrated the company’s commitment to consumer health and safety and provided a timely lesson to the food industry about the importance of rigorous and regular food safety checks.

Popcorn Food Poisoning Prevention

To avoid food poisoning from popcorn or any other food, follow safe food handling and preparation practices:

  • Always wash your hands before and after handling food.
  • Store popcorn and other food items in a cool, dry place.
  • Consume food within the recommended time frame.
  • Be cautious with the additives and toppings you use. Ensure they are not spoiled and are stored appropriately.
  • Choose your popcorn source wisely, especially when buying from bulk bins.
  • Pay attention to food recalls in the news.

Popcorn Nutrition Facts

Nutrition facts for popcorn can vary depending on the specific type and preparation method, but here are the general nutrition facts for plain, air-popped popcorn without any added butter or oil. The values provided are based on a serving size of 1 ounce (28 grams) of popped popcorn:

Calories: Approximately 106 kcal. Carbohydrates: 21.3 grams

  • Dietary Fiber: 3.5 grams
  • Sugars: 0.2 grams Protein: 3.1 grams Fat: 1.2 grams
  • Saturated Fat: 0.2 grams
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 0.3 grams
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.5 grams
  • Trans Fat: 0 grams Cholesterol: 0 milligrams Sodium: 1-milligram Potassium: 32 milligrams Vitamin A: 0 international units (IU) Vitamin C: 0 milligrams Calcium: 1 milligram Iron: 0.36 milligrams Magnesium: 11 milligrams


While getting food poisoning from virtually any food is possible, popcorn is generally safe. The high temperatures of pop popcorn make it less likely to carry harmful bacteria or viruses. Nevertheless, inappropriate handling, storage, or consumption can pose risks. Practicing good food hygiene is crucial to ensure the safety of your popcorn and other food items.

Igor M

Igor M

My name is Igor, and I like food and cooking. On this website, I will share facts related to nutrition, food, big US food chain brands, kitchen, United States grocery store reviews, etc. As an avid reader of cookbooks and professional chef blog posts, I will try to create helpful articles. I enjoy researching different food industry topics such as sustainability in farming practices, health benefits of certain ingredients, food marketing tactics used by large companies, etc. This helps him stay informed on the latest nutrition news and develop a deeper understanding of how our food choices can directly impact our overall health and well-being. As someone who truly values good quality food combined with nutritional awareness, I hope to inspire others by highlighting healthy food and offering the best deals from stores and restaurants.

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