Beverage giant, PepsiCo, just announced it would stop using brominated vegetable oil (BVO) in some of its Gatorade drinks.
BVO is found in a number of popular citrus-flavored sodas and drinks and, noted The New York Times, is used keep the drinks’ ingredients from separating. Derived from soybeans or corn, BVO is an emulsifier that is also patented as flame retardant, and has long been banned as a food additive in Europe and Japan. According to a prior Scientific American report, BVO, an ingredient in about 10 percent of drinks sold in the United States, has been associated with reports of people needing treatment for skin lesions, memory loss, and nerve disorders following binges with beverages made with BVO. Video gamers, in particular, consume large quantities of these drinks, which they refer to as “gamer fuel.”
Experts have associated BVO to depression, memory disorders, fatigue, and seizures, in addition to neurological and thyroid disorders.
BVO was at the heart of a petition that was initiated on Change.org by Sarah Kavanagh, 15, who wanted to see the ingredient banned from drinks after learning about it on the Internet, said the Times. Ms. Kavanagh’s petition garnered some 200,000 signatures. She also appeared on a segment on “The Dr. Oz Show” and was interviewed by the Times. “I just don’t understand why they can’t use something else instead of BVO,” she told the Times.
Gatorade spokeswoman, Molly Carter, said the company had been testing BVO for the past year “due to customer feedback,” noting that, at first. Gatorade initially was not going to announce that BVO was being eliminated from the drink “since we don’t find a health and safety risk with BVO,” according to her interview with the Times. The petition led to the change in announcement.
Sucrose acetate isobutyrate, an emulsifier and food additive “generally recognized as safe” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will replace BVO, said the Times. The replacement emulsifier will be added to orange, citrus cooler, and lemonade Gatorade; Gatorade X-Factor orange; Gatorade Xtremo citrus cooler; and Glacier Freeze, a powdered Gatorade product. The replacement process will be going on over the next few months as current Gatorade supplies are replaced, Carter told the Times.
Japan and the European Union ban BVO as a food additive, the Times noted, adding that some 10 percent of drinks sold in the U.S.—Mountain Dew, made by PepsiCo; some flavors of Powerade and Fresca, by Coca-Cola; and Squirt and Sunkist Peach Soda, made by the Dr Pepper Snapple Group—contain BVO. PepsiCo has no plans to remove the controversial additive from its other beverages.
In a 1977 ruling, the FDA established an acceptable limit of up to15 parts per million (ppm) for BVO in sodas, according to a prior Times report. Consumers are advised to check drink labels. BVO, if present, will be found toward the end of the ingredient list.