A 15 year old by the name of Sarah Kavanagh of Hattiesburg, Miss., started an online petition asking PepsiCo to change Gatorade’s formula. But, why? What was her reasoning? After looking at the label of her Gatorade bottle, she realized there was a controversial additive that she didn’t like being in there.
The additive is called Brominated Vegetable Oil and it has been linked to a long list of possible side effects, including neurological disorders and altered thyroid hormones.
Brominated vegetable oil is a synthetic chemical that is created when vegetable oil is bonded to the element bromine. Bromine is heavy, and it keeps the oil from floating to the top of water-based solutions. The use of brominated vegetable oil is primarily to keep flavors in beverages from separating, which is why you find it in many soft drinks.
Brominated Vegetable Oil has been used for the last 70 years. It has generally been recognized as being safe. And the FDA has approved the use of BVO up to 15PPM in 1977 and has not changed since.
Drinks containing BVO Include: Mountain Dew, Fresca Original Citrus, Fanta Orange, Gatorade Thirst Quencher Orange, Squirt, Sunkist Pineapple and Powerade Strawberry Lemonade.
You may note that BVO is found in drinks that have citrus flavors, and this is because the additive keeps the citrus oils stable and prevents them from separating.
Citrus flavors — orange, lemon, lime, and grapefruit — are oily. “When you put them on a soda or in a beverage, they tend to sit on top of the drink. They are not dispersed all the way through,” says food chemist Kantha Shelke, PhD, a Chicago scientist who consults with food companies to develop new products. BVO acts as an emulsifier, meaning it helps the citrus flavors mix better in the soft drink. Drinks that contain BVO usually look hazy or cloudy.
In very high amounts drunk over a long period of time, BVO can build up in the body and cause toxic effects. For example in 1997, doctors were stumped by the case of a man who came to the emergency room with headaches, fatigue, and a loss of muscle coordination and memory. He continued to get worse over time, and eventually he lost the ability to walk. A blood test found sky-high levels of bromide. The source? The man had been drinking between 2 and 4 liters of soda containing brominated vegetable oil every day. He needed dialysis but eventually recovered.
In 2003, doctors treated a man who developed swollen hands with oozing sores. They diagnosed a rare case of the skin condition bromoderma after blood tests revealed his bromine was about twice normal limits. The man admitted drinking about 8 liters of Ruby Red Squirt, which contains BVO, each day.
Use of the substance in the United States has been debated for more than three decades. But the European Union has long banned the substance from foods, requiring use of other ingredients. Japan recently moved to do the same.
“B.V.O. is banned other places in the world, so these companies already have a replacement for it,” Ms. Kavanagh said. “I don’t see why they don’t just make the switch.” To that, companies say the switch would be too costly.
But because this 15 year old didn’t give up and got over 200,000 signatures online, PepsiCo has just announced it would remove BVO from its Gatorade drinks, sparking what is sure to a be a firestorm resulting in other products also removing the additive.
For more information on Hazardous Chemicals and brominated vegetable oil please visit www.sadakafirm.com.