PepsiCo has announced plans to remove brominated vegetable oil (BVO) from Gatorade after consumer complaints started rolling in via a petition started at Change.org by 15 year-old Sarah Kavanagh. Kavanagh launched the petition after reading the label of her Gatorade drink and seeing “brominated vegetable oil” in the ingredients. She Googled it, found a long list of health concerns associated with BVO, and decided to take action. Back in December, PepsiCo spokesmen, Jeff Dahncke, said that there were zero plans to remove BVO from any PepsiCo beverages because it’s safe by FDA standards and regulations. By January, Kavanagh’s petition had received more than 200,000 signatures and PepsiCo changed their tune. In a statement made to Beverage Digest by Molly Carter, a spokeswoman for Gatorade, PepsiCo will in fact be removing BVO from Gatorade, not because BVO is unsafe, but because consumers think it’s unsafe. Carter notes, “While our products are safe, we are making this change because we know that some consumers have a negative perception of BVO in Gatorade, despite it being permitted for use in North American and Latin American countries.”
BVO was officially designed to keep plastics from catching on fire, and it’s patented as a flame retardant. BVO is banned in food products in Europe and Japan, but American companies and the FDA say it’s perfectly safe. Unfortunately, BVO may not be as safe as the FDA claims. Environmental Health News notes that FDA limits of BVO are based on outdated data from the 1970s, and various research has linked BVO to bromide poisoning symptoms like skin lesions, memory loss and nerve disorders. Other research suggests that BVO can build up in the human body, and some rodent studies have shown that BVO may result in reproductive and behavioral problems. Though PepsiCo and Gatorade apparently spoke with Beverage Digest, there’s not been an official statement released on either Gatorade’s or PepsiCo’s website. In fact, BVO is still listed as a safe ingredient on Gatorade’s FAQ pages; under, “Is BVO (Brominated vegetable oil) in Gatorade?” According to various other sources, the newly formulated Gatorade, made not with BVO but with sucrose acetate isobutyrate should be on shelves over the next few months. There will be no recall on Gatorade that currently contains BVO.
Like flame retardants? We hope you want to avoid chemicals like BVO, but just in case you like a little flame retardant in your daily life, you’ll be happy to know that PepsiCo has zero plans to remove BVO from PepsiCo’s Mountain Dew. Thanks to FDA regulations permitting BVO in consumer products in the USA, you can also find BVO in Coca-Cola Co. beverages such as Powerade and Fanta Orange, many food products your kids eat and in most child car seats.