FDA Looks To Ban Common Soda Ingredient

On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration put forth a new proposal that would ban a chemical that’s added to certain sodas, to help fight the negative impacts that it could have on people’s health.

If the ban were to be finalized as proposed, brominated vegetable oil, also known as BVO, would not be allowed to be included in beverages in the U.S. Right now, BVO is one ingredient that’s added to certain citrus-flavored sodas to prevent the citrus from ultimately separating from the rest of the liquid and floating to the top of the beverage.

As part of its proposal that would ban BVO, the FDA said that there are findings that show that the chemical is toxic to the human thyroid.

Last month, California banned the use of the ingredient in its state through the newly-passed California Food Safety Act. That made them the first state to ban BVO. It’s already banned in Japan and Europe.

In a statement that accompanied the FDA’s proposal, the agency’s deputy commissioner for human foods, James Jones, said:

“The agency concluded that the intended use of BVO in food is no longer considered safe after the results of studies conducted in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health … found the potential for adverse health effects in humans.”

BVO is a vegetable oil that is modified by bromine, which is a red oily chemical that is pungent. Bromine is also used in various flame retardants.

The Environmental Working Group publishes a booklet called the Eat Well Guide, which has suggested that dozens of products, most of which are sodas, use BVO as one of its ingredients.
That’s not a lot of products that use BVO, but it’s mainly due to the fact that the FDA has been working to regulate the chemical in the past.

As Jones said in the statement:

“In 1970, the FDA determined BVO was no longer ‘Generally Recognized as Safe’ … and began overseeing its use under our food additive regulations. Over the years many beverage makers reformulated their products to replace BVO with an alternative ingredient, and today, few beverages in the U.S. contain BVO.”

A petition back in 2012 that had more than 200,000 signatures brought additional attention to some health concerns regarding BVO, the EWG said in a news release. Because of pressure they were receiving in the market, many companies began to eliminate the ingredient from their products on their own.

The EWG says the ingredient has been linked to some health hazards including damage to the nervous system, irritation to the mucous membrane and skin, loss of memory and coordination, fatigue and headaches.

Over time, the ingredient also has the ability to accumulate in the human body.

Scott Faber, who serves as the senior vice president for government affairs for the EWG, celebrated the FDA’s proposal in a statement, saying:

“Today’s announcement will ensure everyone has access to products that don’t contain BVO.”