Home » FDA Bans Brominated Vegetable Oil in Food, Soda

FDA Bans Brominated Vegetable Oil in Food, Soda

by Richard A Reagan

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Tuesday that it will ban the use of brominated vegetable oil (BVO) in food items, effective August 2, citing safety concerns.

This decision is the culmination of decades of debate and research into the potential health risks posed by BVO, a chemical that has been used as a stabilizer in citrus-flavored beverages since the 1920s.

BVO is a vegetable oil modified with bromine, a chemical element also found in fire retardants. Its primary use has been to keep citrus flavoring evenly distributed in beverages.

However, the FDA has now determined that BVO is no longer safe for consumption based on recent studies conducted in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health.

These studies have linked oral exposure to BVO with thyroid damage, which can affect metabolism and brain development.

Health concerns about BVO have been longstanding. Bromine, an ingredient in BVO, can irritate the skin, nose, mouth, and stomach. More alarmingly, it has been associated with neurological symptoms in individuals consuming large quantities of citrus soda, exceeding two liters a day.

The accumulation of bromine in the body can lead to bromine toxicity, which poses a risk to the central nervous system.

In 1970, the FDA removed BVO from its Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list and limited its use to products containing fruit flavorings. The ban follows similar actions by other countries: the United Kingdom banned BVO in 1970, India in 1990, the European Union in 2008, and Japan in 2010.

This move by the FDA is part of a broader trend of increasing scrutiny and regulation of food additives.

Last year, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill prohibiting the sale of food containing BVO, along with other controversial additives like Red 3, propylparaben, and potassium bromate, starting in 2027. New York lawmakers have also introduced similar legislation.

Many food companies have already taken steps to remove BVO from their products. Beverage giants PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have eliminated BVO from popular drinks such as Gatorade and Fanta.

A spokesperson from Walmart indicated that the retailer has been working with suppliers to reformulate products, with most private brand items already free of BVO.

However, some products still contain BVO. Keurig Dr Pepper, for example, uses BVO in its Sun Drop sodas in the U.S. The company has stated it is actively reformulating the drink to comply with the new FDA regulations.

The FDA’s decision has been praised by health advocates. Michael Ashley Schulman, chief investment officer at Running Point Capital Advisors, called the ban “a terrific positive in the right direction.”

The FDA explained that while BVO was once a common ingredient, it is now found in few beverages in the U.S., reflecting a shift towards safer alternatives.

As the August 2 deadline approaches, consumers can expect to see changes in the ingredient lists of many citrus-flavored beverages.

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