Brominated vegetable oil, aka BVO, a common citrus drink ingredient in the United States, is banned in Japan, India and the European Union.
The questionable emulsifier is supposed to keep components of sports drinks and soda pop from separating, but is often called flame retardant for bromine’s industrial uses as a flame retardant, gasoline additive and in pesticides.
BVO in beverages has been known about for awhile, even earning write-ups from the well-known Dr. Mercola – but it was a Change.org petition made by a 15-year-old Mississippi girl that got America’s attention. Especially after she was brought on television by Dr. Oz.
Sarah Kavanaugh is pictured above and amassed over 200,000 signatures which convinced PepsiCo to phase BVO out of Gatorade. We featured the move in our “13 Ways Foodies Are Changing the Food Industry.” Her Powerade petition had over 59,000 signatures and it looks like Coca-Cola might be imitating the Pepsi move.
The argument for the petition was that these drinks exist in other countries, yet the food companies had no issue swapping banned ingredients for alternatives – so why not in the U.S.? Also, the drinks are marketed as healthy (they’ve got electrolytes?) and great for the athletic types.
The FDA withdrew its GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status for BVO in 1970, which apparently doesn’t mean the ingredient is disallowed. Adverse health reports did not result in a ban, but instead a more watchful eye and some restrictions. Incidentally, the FDA did not approve of bromide compounds in OTC drugs after 1975 and the practice fell out of use.
The Associated Press announced yesterday that Coca-Cola has dropped BVO from fruit punch and strawberry lemonade Powerades in the eastern and midwest U.S. Some bottles and the website still list it, which suggests a phase-out.
Both corporations have stood by safety claims but are responding to consumer-turnabout, with the exception of Pepsi’s Mountain Dew.
Pulin Modi, senior campaign manager for Change.org said:
Consumers are coming together quickly and efficiently to influence the world’s biggest beverage companies in an unprecedented manner.
And, by consumer influence, the bottom-line fears are implicated. Coca-Cola dominates the soda market but seriously lags in the sports drink department as Americans try to cut back on soda pop.
So, what do you think of the substitutes for BVO: sucrose acetate isobutyrate and glycerol ester of wood rosin?
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