Petitions Cause Soda Makers to Remove Banned Ingredient from Soft Drinks

Sarah Kavanagh
Food Ingredients

Sarah KavanaghFollowing in the wake of Subway removing the “yoga mat chemical” from their bread products, soft drink makers are removing a controversial “flame retardant chemical” from soft drinks. It’s a move in the right direction, to be sure, but merely a drop in the bucket for companies who make their fortunes on selling nutritionally depleted food and drinks to the masses.

The Coca-Cola Company announced this week that it plans on removing brominated vegetable oil (BVO) from their citrus-flavored drinks. It was taken out of fruit punch and strawberry lemonade flavored Powerade drinks earlier this year. The drink maker plans to remove it from Fanta and Fresca next.

BVO contains something known as bromine, which is also found in fire retardants. Though legal to use in drinks, it certainly doesn’t sound appetizing, and drink makers like Coke have faced mounting criticism for its use.

Much of the criticism against BVO stemmed from two online petitions circulated by a Mississippi teenager. Sarah Kavanagh petitioned both PepsiCo and Coca-Cola to remove BVO. PepsiCo announced it would stop using the ingredient in January.

The petition to PepsiCo received 200,000 signatures. The one for Coke has received closer to 60,000 as of last Monday.

“I knew that if Gatorade could do the right thing, so could Powerade,” said Kavanagh according to Reuters. “I’m glad to know the Powerade sold at my school and consumed by people around the world will be a little bit healthier without BVO in it.”

The Center for Science in the Public Interest classifies BVO as “possibly dangerous” and “poorly tested”. They say there is “no reason to use it in Gatorade or other drinks.”

Interestingly, the CSPI says the FDA approved the use of BVO back in 1970 on an interim testing. In other words, its approval was meant to be temporary pending additional research. It remains on this interim list today.

In both Japan and the European Union, BVO is not approved for use in food and drinks. Actually, it’s just one of many ingredients banned in other nations while still being approved in the U.S. While Pepsi and Coke say it’s safe for American consumers, they’ve buckled under the pressure, and thankfully so.

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