Once again, a major company has changed the ingredients in their products due to public demands which started through an online petition. On Monday, Coca-Cola made the announcement that their Powerade sports drinks no longer contain the controversial chemical brominated vegetable oil (BVO.)
BVO is made from triglycerides extracted from plants. It has been used to emulsify drinks since 1931. It is not an approved additive in Europe. It was banned in food products in India in 1990 and banned in Japan in 2010. The FDA originally listed BVO as “generally recognized as safe” in 1958, but it later changed its mind and approved it as an additive in the U.S., to be used only in small amounts for the purpose of keeping ingredients from separating.
The real concern over BVO is when is is consumed in excess, meaning more than two liter per day. Bromine toxicity has been noted in animal studies. It can result in memory loss, fatigue, headaches and the loss of muscle coordination. The only documented case of a person being affected by BVO, however, was a single incident in which a man drank between two and four liters of citrus sports drinks per day. He experienced neurological problems, from which he fully recovered. Still, studies show that the chemical can build up in the body over time and has the potential to cause health problems, even when consumed one small dose at a time.
The problem with Powerade is that it is heavily marketed to young athletes. Players generally drink a lot to quench their thirst and replenish lost electrolytes. Sarah Kavanagh is a Mississippi teenager who started a petition on Change.org over the use of BVO in sports drinks. Her petition to remove BVO from Gatorade garnered 200,000 online supporters, while her petition for Powerade garnered 59,000 supporters. Either way, it was enough to spark change in both products.
Just one year after PepsiCo removed the chemical BVO, the same chemical used as a flame retardant, Coca-Cola has begun phasing out the chemical from their product line, starting with the fruit punch and strawberry lemonade flavored Powerade sports drinks.
According to a press release, Coca-Cola is planning to remove BVO from all of their beverages, not just the Powerade product line. A representative announced on Sunday that their Powerade was BVO-free, but their website has not updated the information on their ingredients list. They are no longer using BVO to emulsify their fruity flavored drinks. Instead, they will replace it with sucrose acetate isobutyrate and glycerol ester of rosin.
Powerade no longer contains the controversial chemical that is also used as a flame retardant and it is the result of public concern and pressure. It proves one again that companies are being held to a higher standard these days. Regardless of what is allowable by the FDA, consumers want healthier ingredients in their food and drinks and will push to get it. Another recent example of this type of public pressure is with Subway, which has agreed to change their bread recipe to remove the whitening ingredient, which is also a chemical used in yoga mats.
By Tracy Rose