What Harmful Food Additive Was Just Removed From Sports Drinks?

poweradeIn January, PepsiCo Inc. announced it was removing brominated vegetable oil better known as BVO from Gatorade sports drink. Recently, Coca-Cola had done the same by discontinuing the use of BVO in its PowerAde sports drink as well as its citrus-flavored products such as Fresca by the end of fiscal 2014. And now, both PepsiCo and Coca-Cola announce that they are working to remove the ingredient used as a flavor separator - from all drinks - including Mountain Dew and Fanta.

Coca-Cola says BVO should be phased out in the U.S. by the end of the year. Instead of BVO, the company will use sucrose acetate isobutyrate, which has been used in drinks for more than 14 years, and glycerol ester of rosin, which is commonly found in chewing gum and drinks.

The decision stems from an organized petition against BVO. Last year, Sarah Kavanagh and Aveyca Price collected over 200,000 signatures as part of a Change.org campaign.

So What Is BVO And What All Does It Do?

Brominated vegetable oil (BVO) is vegetable oil, derived from corn or soy, bonded with the element bromine.It's added as an emulsifier to prevent the flavoringfrom separating and floating to the surface. Without it the flavor would likely just float on the surface. While it is used primarily to help emulsify citrus-flavored soft drinks to prevent them from separating during distribution, the controversial additive has also been patented as a flame retardant. Bromine is still used in the production of insecticides, fire retardants and water sanitizers.

While BVO was omitted from a list of substances generally recognized as safe in 1970, in 1977 the Food and Drug Administration passed an interim ruling based on some preliminary studies that it was safe up to 15 parts per million. The FDA also categorized the additive as generally recognized as safe. However, there are case reports of adverse effects associated with excessive consumption of BVO-containing products. One case reported that a man who consumed two to four liters of a soda containing BVO on a daily basis experienced memory loss, tremors, fatigue, loss of muscle coordination, headache, and ptosis of the right eyelid, as well as elevated serum chloride. In the two months it took to correctly diagnose the problem, the patient also lost the ability to walk. Eventually, bromism was diagnosed and hemodialysis was prescribed, which resulted in a reversal of the disorder. However, there was no evidence that the symptoms were caused by that particular ingredient.

Bromines usage in food products has been banned by Japan and the European Union since 2009. Englands public health department stated that consuming food that has been fumigated with bromine may result in burns to the throat, mouth and stomach followed by severe stomach irritation. Prolonged exposure may result in bromine accumulation in the body - and brain damage in severe cases resulting in coma.

Standards for soft drinks in India have prohibited the use of BVO since 1990, but BVO is currently permitted as a food additive in Canada.

Another Additive Bites The Dust

Earlier this year, Subway said it would remove azodicarbonamide from all of its breads. The ingredient used in the making of yoga mats was used by Subway as a bleaching agent and dough conditioner. Azodicarbonamide is approved for use by the FDA and can be found in a wide variety of breads.

Last year, Starbucks announced it would stop using a red dye made of crushed bugs, and switch to a tomato-based extract. Kraft Foods announced plans to replace artificial dyes with colors derived from natural spices in select varieties of its macaroni and cheese. And Chick-fil-A announced it was removing high-fructose corn syrup from its white buns and artificial dyes from its sauces and dressings as part of a push to improve its ingredients.

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