After public outcry, Coca-Cola pulls brominated vegetable oil from Powerade

Posted at 3:35 PM, May 05, 2014

ATLANTA (WTVR) — The Coca-Cola Company is in the process of eliminating a controversial ingredient dubbed Dr. Oz’s “number one shocking health threat in your food” from its popular Powerade sports drinks.

According to an Associated Press report, bottles of fruit punch and strawberry lemonade flavored Powerade sold in at least three states and Washington, D.C. no longer list brominated vegetable oil as an ingredient.

PowerAde Collage

A representative for the Atlanta-based company confirmed to the Associated Press Sunday that Powerade is now “BVO-free,” but there was no official word when the change took place.

In fact, some bottles for sale still list BVO as an ingredient, indicting that the company may have recently started phasing it out.

Brominated vegetable oil or BVO is an emulsifier commonly used in citrus-flavored soft drinks likes Powerade, Fanta Orange, Fresca, Mountain Dew and other sodas. It is is essentially vegetable oil treated with the high-density element bromine.

According to, BVO was originally created as a flame retardant for children’s clothes and mattresses. This US first approved the element in the 1970s as an “interim ruling pending additional research.” However, BVO is still listed as an “interim food additive” instead of an ingredient over 40 years later.

Soda manufacturers first began using the additive for cosmetic reasons because the emulsifier helps prevent the drinks’ ingredients from separating on the shelf and giving citrus drinks a cloudy, more “natural” appearance, according to an article on Dr. Oz’s website.

BVO has been linked to organ damage, neurological issues and even birth defects. Studies have found that brominated flame retardants (BVO’s cousins) build up in human tissues, including breast milk. Studies have also linked those substances to neurological impairment, reduced fertility, changes in thyroid hormones and early onset puberty.

More than 100 countries have banned BVO, including countries in Europe and Japan. However, it is still legal to add BVO to beverages in amounts no greater than 15 parts per million in the US and Canada.

Sarah Kavanagh, a Mississippi teenager, started online petitions to force Gatorade and Powerade to drop the controversial ingredient since the drinks were formulated for athletes. At last check, Kavanagh’s Powerade petition had nearly 60,000 supporters. Her Gatoradepetition had more than 200,000.

In January of 2013, PepsiCo announced that it was pulling BVO from its citrus-flavored Gatorade sports drinks. However, BVO is still used in the company’s popular Mountain Dew soft drink.

“When I went to to start my petition, I thought it might get a lot of support because no one wants to gulp down flame retardant, especially from a drink they associate with being healthy. But with Gatorade being as big as they are, sometimes it was hard to know if we’d ever win,” Kavanagh wrote.

The FDA issued the following statement in response to Dr. Oz’s report:

“The FDA understands that some consumers may have concerns about brominated vegetable oil (BVO) in food products. Based on its review of the science, the FDA has determined that BVO is safe and presents no health risks at the permitted level of 15 parts per million”

Additionally, theAmerican Beverage Associationreleased the following statement:

“The current conversation surrounding brominated vegetable oil is more sensational than substantive. Brominated vegetable oil or BVO, which is used in some beverages, improves the stability of the beverage by preventing some ingredients from separating. It is a safe ingredient permitted by the FDA and is listed on the ingredient statement when present in a beverage. Importantly, consumers can rest assured that our products are safe and our industry adheres to all government regulations.”