Brominated vegetable oil

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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.[1][2]

Careful control of the type of oil used allows bromination of it to produce BVO with a specific density of 1.33 g/mL, which is noticeably greater than that of water (1 g/mL). As a result, it can be mixed with less-dense flavoring agents such as citrus flavor oil to produce a resulting oil, the density of which matches that of water or other products. The droplets containing BVO remain suspended in the water rather than separating and floating at the surface.[2]

Alternative food additives used for the same purpose include sucrose acetate isobutyrate (SAIB, E444) and glycerol ester of wood rosin (ester gum, E445).

Chemical structure of a representative constituent of BVO, featuring, from the top, brominated linoleate, linolenoate, and oleate esters.[2]

Regulation and use[edit]

United States[edit]

In the United States, BVO was designated in 1958 as generally recognized as safe (GRAS),[2] but this was withdrawn by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1970.[3] The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations currently imposes restrictions on the use of BVO as a food additive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,[4] limiting the amount of free fatty acids to 2.5 percent, and limiting the iodine value to 16.[5]

An online petition at asking PepsiCo to stop adding BVO to Gatorade and other products collected over 200,000 signatures by January 2013.[6] 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.[7][8]

On May 5, 2014, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo said they would remove BVO from their products.[9] As of 2020, Mountain Dew, manufactured by PepsiCo,[10] no longer uses BVO in the main line of beverages,[11] but the original BVO-containing formula is still sometimes sold as the lesser distributed "Mountain Dew Throwback" beverage.[12][13]

BVO is used in Sun Drop, made by the Dr Pepper Snapple Group.[14] Numerous generic citrus sodas also use it, including; "Mountain Lightning"/Walmart sodas, "Clover Valley"/Dollar General sodas, "Orangette" and Stars & Stripes.[15] BVO is much less frequently used as an emulsifier in non-carbonated drinks, such as flavoring syrups for caffeinated beverages[16] and specialty juices.[17]

BVO is one of four substances that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has defined as interim food additives;[18][19] the other three are acrylonitrile copolymers, mannitol, and saccharin.[20]


BVO is currently permitted as a food additive in Canada, but only in beverages containing citrus or spruce oils.[21]


In the European Union, BVO is banned from use as a food additive;[22] and any BVO-containing products that may slip through the regulations are pulled from shelves upon discovery.[23] In the EU, beverage companies commonly use glycerol ester of wood rosin or locust bean gum as an alternative to BVO.


Standards for soft drinks in India have prohibited the use of BVO since 1990.[24]


The use of BVO as a food additive has been banned in Japan since 2010.[2]

Health effects[edit]

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.[25] 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.[26]


  1. ^ "Pepsi Product Information: Ingredient Glossary". PepsiCo. Archived from the original on 2008-01-08. Retrieved 2007-09-17.
  2. ^ a b c d e Paul Bendig; Lisa Maier; Walter Vetter (2012). "Brominated vegetable oil in soft drinks – an underrated source of human organobromine intake". Food Chemistry. 133 (3): 678–682. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2012.01.058.
  3. ^ Food additives. Brominated vegetable oils; removal from list of substances generally recognized as safe. Federal Register (1970), 35(18), 1049
  4. ^ D.L. Turner (1972). "Determination of brominated vegetable oil concentrations in soft drinks using a specific ion electrode". Journal of Food Science. 37 (5): 791–792. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2621.1972.tb02754.x.
  5. ^ "Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21—Food and Drugs, Chapter I—Food and Drug Administration, Department of Health and Human Services, Subchapter B—Food for Human Consumption, Part 180—Food Additives Permitted in Food or in Contact with Food on an Interim Basis Pending Additional Study". Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Retrieved 2007-09-17.
  6. ^ Strom, Stephanie (13 December 2012). "Another look at a drink ingredient, Brominated Vegetable OIl". New York Times. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  7. ^ Stephanie Strom (January 25, 2013). "PepsiCo Will Halt Use of Additive in Gatorade" (blog by NYT journalist). The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-01-26.
  8. ^ "Gatorade to remove controversial ingredient". AP. Retrieved 2013-01-26.
  9. ^ Choi, Candice (May 5, 2014). "Coke, Pepsi dropping 'BVO' from all drinks". Associated Press. Retrieved May 6, 2014.
  10. ^ "PepsiCo Beverage Information". Archived from the original on 2016-06-09. Retrieved 2019-04-05.
  11. ^ "The Facts About Your Favorite Beverages (U.S.) | product". Retrieved 2020-06-07.
  12. ^ "Mountain Dew Throwback Soda - Google Search". Retrieved 2020-06-18.
  13. ^ "Mountain Dew Throwback Soda, 12 Fl Oz, 12 Count - -". 2020-06-18. Archived from the original on 2020-06-18. Retrieved 2020-06-18.
  14. ^ "Dr Pepper Snapple Group Product Facts".
  15. ^ "No product found". Retrieved 2020-06-18.
  16. ^ "Skinny Mixes/Syrups: Nutrition & Ingredients information" (PDF). September 2018. Archived (PDF) from the original on June 18, 2020. Retrieved June 18, 2020.
  17. ^ "Thick & Easy Thickened Beverage 72461 4 Oz Case of 24, Prune Flavor". Retrieved 2020-06-18.
  18. ^ "Food Additive Status List". Food and Drug Administration. 26 August 2021.
  19. ^ Enhancing the Regulatory Decision-Making Approval Process for Direct Food Ingredient Technologies. The National Academies Press. 1999. doi:10.17226/9453. ISBN 978-0-309-06486-6.
  20. ^ Enhancing the Regulatory Decision-Making Approval Process for Direct Food Ingredient Technologies. Institute of Medicine. 1999. p. 31. doi:10.17226/9453. ISBN 978-0-309-06486-6. PMID 25077191. Retrieved 2007-09-17.
  21. ^ "List of Permitted Food Additives with Other Accepted Uses". Health Canada. 27 November 2006. Retrieved 2020-12-09.
  22. ^ "Brominated vegetable oil: Why is BVO in my drink?". Mayo Clinic. April 5, 2013. Retrieved 2014-02-17.
  23. ^ "Banned emulsifier in soft drink". Retrieved 2020-06-18.
  24. ^ "DIRECTORS' REPORT 1990-91". Ministry of Food Processing Industries.
  25. ^ Horowitz BZ (1997). "Bromism from excessive cola consumption". Journal of Toxicology: Clinical Toxicology. 35 (3): 315–320. doi:10.3109/15563659709001219. PMID 9140329.
  26. ^ Matthew Alice (1999-07-29). "Straight from the Hip: What is Brominated Vegetable Oil?". San Diego Reader. Retrieved 2007-09-17.

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