The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken action to ban the use of a potentially harmful additive found in drinks, known as brominated vegetable oil (BVO). Unless you meticulously inspect the ingredients label, you might be unaware that the beverage you’re consuming could contain BVO. However, this will soon change.
The FDA’s decision to ban BVO stems from their assessment that this additive is no longer considered safe for consumption. Their rationale is based on studies indicating that the accumulation of bromine in the body can have detrimental effects, particularly on the thyroid gland.
BVO is essentially a vegetable oil modified with bromine. Initially, the FDA had permitted its use in small quantities to prevent the separation and floating of citrus flavoring in certain beverages. However, back in 1970, BVO lost its “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) status.
Subsequently, many manufacturers reformulated their products to substitute BVO with alternative ingredients. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, PepsiCo removed BVO from Gatorade in 2013 and Coca-Cola and PepsiCo agreed to remove it from all their drinks the following year.
As per the FDA, only a few beverages in the United States still use BVO. It’s more common in smaller, more regional brands, including some Food Lion-brand sodas, some Great Value-brand sodas, and Sun Drop citrus soda.
James Jones, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for Human Foods, emphasized the agency’s approach, stating, “The FDA prioritizes its evaluation of food additives based on risk, scientific evidence, and regulatory authority.” Despite BVO’s historical use in foods and its previous GRAS status, ongoing research has been conducted to understand any potential health implications.
Jones pointed out that recent toxicology studies, conducted in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), have provided definitive scientific proof supporting the FDA’s decision to rescind its authorization for BVO as a food additive.