Coca-Cola has finally decided to remove BVO (Brominated Vegetable Oil) from Powerade, along with all of its products which contained the fire-retardant chemical. The decision, to remove the controversial ingredient, comes approximately a year after PepsiCo removed BVO from its popular Gatorade sports drinks. It would appear that Gatorade’s decision to remove BVO has finally prompted Coca-Cola to do the same. The controversial chemical is widely known as a chemical patented for its flame retardant capabilities.
Coca-Cola has quite the interesting history, and has come to be a globally recognized mega-brand in the past four to five decades. While some of the soda products have been heavily criticized by health conscious groups over the years, one might easily assume that products like Powerade are actually healthy. This assumption would be easy to arrive at, considering Coca-Cola does market the product as a drink made to maximize the performance abilities of elite athletes, leaving the viewer to assume it is also safe and healthy. One such viewer, a teenager from Mississippi, decided to question just why it was that certain chemicals (specifically BVO) were being used in drinks that were marketed as healthy. The teenager’s question has finally resulted in Coca-Cola pulling BVO from its entire line of beverages.
Sarah Kavanagh, the Mississippi teenager who brought mass attention to the issue, did so using the popular website Change.org. Her petition questioned why companies like PepsiCo and Coca-Cola were using the chemical BVO inside beverages which were marketed as being safe and healthy options to maximize the performance of elite athletes. The question, asked by the teenager, resulted in hundreds of thousands of e-signatures supporting her push to have the chemical removed from the drinks. Despite the huge response to remove the chemical from beverages, Coca-Cola maintains that its drinks have always been safe and complied with the regulations in all of the market in which the products are sold. Even though it has not stated that its product was ever “unsafe,” it looks like Gatorade’s decision to remove BVO, along with heavy public pressure, has finally resulted in Coca-Cola doing the same with all its beverages.
Despite any relative truthfulness of the statement by Coca-Cola, attesting to the fact that their beverages are compliant to the regulations of specific markets, there is clearly more to the story. For example, in the European Union along with other markets like Japan, BVO is not allowed to be used within food products. Although the EU and Japan do not allow its use however the US FDA has waffled on the decision of allowing its use within food products. The FDA did approve it on a “interim basis,” citing that additional study was necessary, however the same FDA did at one time remove BVO from a list of food additives generally accepted as being safe for consumption. The fact that BVO is now approved on an “interim basis” by the FDA, which has clearly waffled regarding the safety of the chemical.
After a huge public response to a teenagers petition, Coca-Cola has finally decided to remove BVO from its entire line of beverages. Some may question why the move has come so late: The announcement comes a year after PepsiCo said it was removing BVO from Gatorade. The safety of BVO has been hotly debated for some time. The key point being that BVO contains a chemical called Bromine, which is a chemical compound found in flame retardants. Bromine and flame retardants found to contain the chemical, have been linked to adverse effects in human and animal testing. The chemical can build up in the human body, and has been found in breast milk of those highly exposed to the chemical. Problems with fertility, neurological issues, and hormonal imbalances in the thyroid have been linked to the chemical as well.
Coca-Cola explained that the use of the chemical was primarily to insure that certain chemicals used in different beverages would be evenly dispersed throughout the drink. Those who were behind the petition to remove BVO however, obviously care more about the adverse effects of the chemical then its ability to evenly distribute chemical additives in Coca-Cola’s beverages. One might be tempted to cast some blame toward the FDA, especially after reviewing the facts surrounding BVO and the history of its regulation within the US. Coca-Cola, after the teenagers petition gained enough traction, has finally decided to remove BVO from its entire line of beverages. The FDA however, in a statement aimed at addressing the BVO issue, said that changing the “interim” status of the chemical is not a high enough priority to merit the redirecting of the agency’s limited resources. Essentially, BVO’s safety or lack thereof, just isn’t that important to the FDA at the moment for it to do anything about it.
Only after hundreds of thousands of signatures, and a move by PepsiCo to remove BVO from Gatorade, was Coca-Cola finally moved to do remove the chemical from its line of beverages. After reviewing the facts surrounding the chemical’s regulatory history, along with the arguably late decision by Coca-Cola to finally remove the chemical, its looks like the old adage holds truer than ever: Let the buyer beware!
By Daniel Worku