Why has a flame retardant chemical banned in Europe and Japan been used as an ingredient in North American sodas for decades? If you live in the United States and drink citrus-flavored sodas such as Mountain Dew, you may be ingesting this substance that has health professionals up in arms. A synthetic chemical known as brominated vegetable oil (BVO) — first patented by chemical companies as a flame retardant — is increasingly being identified as a threat to your health, but soda companies still have yet to remove BVO as an ingredient.
Added to about 10% of sodas in North America for decades, BVO has reportedly led to soda-drinkers experiencing skin lesions, memory loss, and nerve disorders. Interestingly, these are all the symptoms of overexposure to bromine. What is most concerning is the fact that studies have found that BVO can actually build up in human tissue, accumulating in large quantities over long periods of soda consumption.
Industry Reports Set “Safety Limit” on BVO
Is it any surprise that reports from a group within the industry were instrumental in establishing limits on what the FDA considers a “safe limit” for BVO in sodas? Scientists have disputed the supposed safety level, stating that not only is the data frail, but the research is several decades old and needs to be re-examined. Meanwhile, soda drinkers are being exposed to this toxic flame retardant chemical on a daily basis. It is not uncommon for some Americans to drink upwards of 5-6 sodas per day, and Mountain Dew is a popular choice against soda lovers.
“Aside from these reports, the scientific data is scarce,” said Walter Vetter, a food chemist at Germany’s University of Hohenheim and author of a recent, but unpublished, study on BVO in European soda imports.
Imagine the amount of BVO that has accumulated in the tissue of a lifelong soda drinker.
How can you tell which sodas contain BVO? Well, Mountain Dew, Squirt, Fanta Orange, Sunkist Pineapple, Gatorade Thirst Quencher Orange, and Powerade Strawberry Lemonade or Fresca Original Citrus all contain BVO. This is a not a complete list, however, and it is important to check the ingredient list. Sodas should be avoided regardless of BVO content, as BVO is not the only ingredient you need to worry about. Many sodas contain mercury-filled high-fructose corn syrup, or the carcinogenic artificial sweetener aspartame.
You can even hold a bottle of Mountain Dew up to a light and see the presence of BVO. BVO creates the cloudy look of the beverage by keeping the ‘fruity flavor’ mixed into the drink. Without the presence of BVO, the flavoring would float to the surface and separate.