Thanks to the persistence of a 15 year old girl, PepsiCo recently announced that it will no longer use Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO) in its Gatorade™ beverages. It’s caused many consumers to do a double take–why was OIL put in a beverage in the first place?
BVO is basically plain old vegetable oil (from corn or soybeans) that has the element bromine added to it. It’s function is to maintain the citrus flavor in certain sodas and beverages. The FDA considers BVO to be an “interim” food additive (meaning its safety is still under review) and sets limits on the amount of BVO per serving. BVO is also used as a flame retardant in plastics; a pesticide on strawberries (as methyl bromide); some bakery goods that use “dough conditioner” (potassium bromate); and some prescription medications. Approximately 10% of sodas in the US contain BVO, which does not include sports drinks or other foods.
However, BVO has come under fire due to possibly health concerns. Studies involving lab rats have shown that BVO causes heart and kidney damage. Reports of excessive consumption of soda containing BVO has been linked with memory loss, lesions and nerve problems. BVO may also be linked with thyroid dysfunction, changes in vision, reproductive problems and even increased cancer risk. It’s more likely that these health problems stems from consumption or ingestion from BVO, as opposed to touching or using plastics that contain BVO.
BVO is currently banned in food in Europe and Japan, so it is possible to use other ingredients instead of BVO. Additionally, PepsiCo has promised to remove it from its Gatorade line, but BVO will remain in Mountain Dew and Diet Mountain Dew for the time being. BVO is also present in Powerade, Fresca, Fanta and Squirt.
Your best health bet? Obviously, stop drinking soda of all kinds (diet too!) and limit consumption of sugary/sugar sweetened beverages, as these have all been linked with health pandemics including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems and the like. And according to the New York Times, “About 10,000 chemicals are allowed to be added to foods, about 3,000 of which have never been reviewed for safety by the F.D.A.. Of those, about 1,000 never come before the F.D.A. unless someone has a problem with them; they are declared safe by a company and its handpicked advisers.” Obviously, research is still needed on BVO and other food additives to determine if they’re truly safe, both in the short and long term. Why take a chance? In the meantime, stick with filtered water as your number one beverage choice. It’s low in calories, sugar free and you don’t have to worry about BVO or other food additives.
- Gatorade Removes Controversial BVO After Consumer Outcry (scienceworldreport.com)
- Why Was Flame Retardant in Gatorade, and Why Is It Still in Mountain Dew? (theatlanticwire.com)
- Gatorade to remove controversial ingredient that’s also used as flame retardant (mercurynews.com)
- What is Brominated Vegetable Oil?
- Beware of Brominated Vegetable Oil