When Mississippi teenager Sarah Kavanagh discovered that her bottle of Gatorade had brominated vegetable oil in it, she decded to take a stand. BVO is a synthetic chemical that is created when vegetable oil is bonded to the element bromine, often found in citrus drinks because it helps the flavors evenly mix in the drink instead of separating. But when consumed in large amounts over a long period of time, it can build up in the body and cause toxic effects, like neurological damage. So Kavanagh started a petition to get BVO out of Gatorade.
Last year, PepsiCo announced that it is dropping the ingredient from Gatorade, and Coca Cola followed this year by announcing that it would drop it from Powerade. But that’s not all — Coca Cola has now announced that it is planning to remove the ingredient from all of its drinks. In the United States, BVO can still be found in some Fanta and Fresca flavors.
While banned in many countries, before Powerade and Gatorade were off the list, about 10 percent of drinks sold in the United States contained BVO. According to the AP, “Coca-Cola said in a statement that all its drinks are safe and comply with regulations in the countries where they’re sold.” However, despite complying with FDA regulations in the US — who approves the use of BVO — Coca Cola says it wants to phase the ingredient out to be more consistent with the ingredients it uses around the world.
But the decision to remove the ingredient could also be motivated by a realization that customers are demanding something different. “The trend toward natural foods has prompted some to steer clear of ingredients or chemicals that sound unfamiliar, even if they’re approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration and have been used by manufacturers for years,” wrote the AP.
“Coca-Cola has gone above and beyond our expectations,” Kavanagh told the AP. “It’s really good to know that companies, especially big companies, are listening to consumers.”
But let’s not allow this decision to cloud our critical thinking. If BVO is out, Coca Cola must be replacing it. What will our citrus drinks be getting instead?
Soon you can look forward to guzzling sucrose acetate isobutyrate in your Fanta. Sucrose acetate isobutyrate is said to be safe for consumption and has no effects associated with long term use. However, one study found that dogs that were fed the chemical showed enlarged livers and altered liver enzyme function.
While Coca Cola may get accolades for removing a toxic chemical, it’s replacing it with yet another synthetic chemical. In other words, you’re still drinking synthetic chemicals. So if you’re in the market for eating and drinking real food, best to stay away from the soda can and the sports drink bottle.
Photo Credit: Manuel Garcia