By: Martha Garcia | Published: December 18th, 2012
A Mississippi teen has started a petition for PepsiCo to remove brominated vegetable oil from Gatorade, leading others to take a new look at the additive, which has been banned in many other countries.
According to a New York Times article from Dec. 12, Sarah Kavanagh, 15, from Hattiesburg, Miss. started the petition after drinking a bottle of Orange Gatorade one afternoon.
Kavanagh decided to research the ingredients and found disturbing information about one additive that is found in Gatorade, inspiring her to begin a petition through Change.org to remove brominated vegetable oil (BVO) from the drink. The petition has gained nearly 200,000 signatures.
BVO is used by some companies as a flame retardant on furniture and children’s products to slow down the chemical reactions that cause a fire. It contains bromine, a chemical that can build up in the fatty tissues of the body and has been linked to neurological damage, early puberty, reduced fertility and changes in the thyroid, according to several studies.
The chemical is often added to citrus drinks as an emulsifier to aid in the distribution of flavoring, causing it to mix with the sugar and water. Gatorade is not the only beverage which includes the chemical on the ingredient list. Nearly 10 percent of all drinks sold in the U.S. contain BVO, including Mountain Dew, Fanta Orange, Powerade, Fresca, Sunkist Peach Soda and Squirt.
“Generally Recognized as Safe”
Prior to the passing of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act, BVO was often used in foods in the 1930s and was then exempted from regulation. The Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association, an advisory board to the FDA which typically holds much weight with the agency, removed BVO from its list of “generally recognized as safe” list citing a lack of data.
In fact, according to the New York Times article, the only thing a company must to do to make the “generally recognized as safe list” is to self publish research purporting its safety for use in food. Of the more than 10,000 chemicals which are allowed to be added to foods 3,000 have never been reviewed by the FDA and 1,000 are never sent to the FDA for review until complaints against the chemical are brought forward.
Testing conducted on rats have found subjects who consumed large amounts of BVO developed heart lesions. Health concerns caused the European nations and Japan to ban the chemical from use in foods. Other scientific studies point to side effects such as skin lesions, memory loss and nerve disorders.
Kavanagh petition simply asks PepsiCo to replace the chemical, a step that other countries have taken after concern about BVO arose. According to Kavanagh’s petition, that suggests that the substance is not needed to make the beverage and claims there is adequate research to indicate the chemical is harmful.