Brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, is found in Coca-Cola fruit and sports drinks such as Fanta and Powerade that are sold in the US, Canada and Latin America
May 6: A teenager’s online petition forces Coca-Cola to announce plans to drop brominated vegetable oil as an ingredient in some drinks
The world’s largest beverage-maker, Coca-Cola, plans to remove a controversial ingredient from some of its drinks following an online petition. Brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, is found in Coca-Cola fruit and sports drinks such as Fanta and Powerade that are sold in the US, Canada and Latin America.
It will be replaced after concerns that an element of the additive is also found in flame retardants. It is not approved for use in food or drink in the European Union or Japan. Rival Pepsi removed the chemical from its Gatorade sports drink last year.
A Pepsi spokesman said it also had wider plans to stop using BVO and had “been actively working to remove it from the rest of our product portfolio”.
Coca-Cola spokesman Josh Gold stressed the move to remove BVO was not an issue of safety. “All of our beverages, including those with BVO, are safe and always have been — and comply with all regulations in the countries where they are sold,” he said in a statement. “The safety and quality of our products is our highest priority.”
BVO has been used as a stabiliser in fruit-flavoured drinks as it helps to prevent ingredients from separating.
The health concerns stem from the fact BVO contains bromide, which is found in brominated flame retardants.
According to medical researchers at the Mayo Clinic in the US, excessive consumption of soft drinks containing BVO has been linked to negative health effects, including reports of memory loss and skin and nerve problems.
BVO was dropped from the US Food and Drug Administration’s “Generally Recognised as Safe” list of food ingredients in 1970.
However, drinks companies are allowed to use BVO at up to 15 parts per million.
In Japan and the EU, the use of BVO as a food additive is not allowed. Coca-Cola said it would switch to using sucrose acetate isobutyrate or glycerol ester of rosin, which is commonly found in chewing gum.
The Atlanta-based company said two flavours of its Powerade sports drink — fruit punch and strawberry lemonade — have already replaced BVO with glycerol ester of rosin.
Coca-Cola’s decision to remove BVO from its drinks by the end of the year reflects a growing trend among companies to reconsider ingredients due to public pressure.
The campaign against the use of BVO was begun by Sarah Kavanagh, a teenager from Mississippi, who questioned why the ingredient was being used in drinks targeted at health-conscious athletes.
More than 250,000 people have since signed her online petitions on Change.org to have BVO removed from drinks.
Following the announcement by Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Kavanagh was quoted as saying: “It’s really good to know that companies, especially big companies, are listening to consumers.”
Pulin Modi, senior campaign manager for Change.org, added: “Consumers are coming together quickly and efficiently to influence the world’s biggest beverage companies in an unprecedented manner.”