Brominated vegetable oil
Brominated vegetable oil (BVO) is a complex mixture of plant-derived triglycerides that have been reacted to contain atoms of the element bromine bonded to the molecules. Brominated vegetable oil is used primarily to help emulsify citrus-flavored soft drinks, preventing them from separating during distribution. Brominated vegetable oil has been used by the soft drink industry since 1931, generally at a level of about 8 ppm.
Careful control of the type of oil used allows bromination of it to produce BVO with a specific density (1.33 g/mL). As a result, it can be mixed with less-dense flavoring agents such as citrus flavor oil to produce a resulting oil whose density matches that of water or other products. The droplets containing BVO remain suspended in the water rather than separating and floating at the surface.
Regulation and use
In the United States, BVO was designated in 1958 as generally recognized as safe (GRAS), but this was withdrawn by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1970. The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations currently imposes restrictions on the use of BVO as a food additive in the United States, limiting the concentration to 15 ppm, limiting the amount of free fatty acids to 2.5 percent, and limiting the iodine value to 16. BVO is used in Mountain Dew, manufactured by PepsiCo; Powerade, Fanta Orange and Fresca made by Coca-Cola; and Squirt, Sun Drop and Sunkist Peach Soda, made by the Dr Pepper Snapple Group. Numerous generic citrus sodas also use it, including "Clover Valley"/Dollar General sodas and Stars & Stripes. On May 5, 2014, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo said they will remove BVO from their products.
BVO is currently permitted as a food additive in Canada.
The use of BVO as a food additive has been banned in Japan since 2010.
The United States Food and Drug Administration considers BVO to be safe for use as a food additive. However, there are case reports of adverse effects associated with excessive consumption of BVO-containing products. One case reported that a man who consumed two to four liters of a soda containing BVO on a daily basis experienced memory loss, tremors, fatigue, loss of muscle coordination, headache, and ptosis of the right eyelid, as well as elevated serum chloride. In the two months it took to correctly diagnose the problem, the patient also lost the ability to walk. Eventually, bromism was diagnosed and hemodialysis was prescribed which resulted in a reversal of the disorder.
An online petition at Change.org asking PepsiCo to stop adding BVO to Gatorade and other products collected over 200,000 signatures by January 2013. The petition pointed out that since Gatorade is sold in countries where BVO is not approved, there is already an existing formulation without this ingredient. PepsiCo announced in January 2013 that it would no longer use BVO in Gatorade, and announced May 5, 2014 that it would discontinue use in all of its drinks, including Mountain Dew. As of January 20, 2016 BVO is still an ingredient in Mountain Dew.
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- Stephanie Strom (January 25, 2013). "PepsiCo Will Halt Use of Additive in Gatorade" (blog by NYT journalist). The New York Times. Retrieved January 26, 2013.
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- Brominated Battle: Soda Chemical Has Cloudy Health History
- WHO/Food and Agriculture Organization 1970 report
- Behavioral and reproductive effects of chronic developmental exposure to brominated vegetable oil in rats
- FDA Everything Added to Food in the United States (EAFUS) entry for brominated vegetable oil