A Mississippi teenager is declaring victory following PepsiCo’s decision to pull brominated vegetable oil from its Gatorade sports drink line.
Brominated vegetable oil (BVO) is used to keep citrus flavors suspended in soft drinks such as Mountain Dew and some flavors of Gatorade. It is prohibited in some countries and the European Union but allowed in the U.S. and Latin America.
Last year, 15-year-old Sarah Kavanagh says that she Googled “brominated vegetable oil” after seeing it on the list of ingredients for orange-flavored Gatorade. She found an article that said it was patented for use as a flame retardant. She started an online petition on change.org, signed by more than 206,000 people, asking Gatorade to stop using it.
In a statement, PepsiCo says, “We are making this change because we know that some consumers have a negative perception of BVO in Gatorade.” Over the next few months, the company says, it will replace BVO with sucrose acetate isobutyrate, which is allowed all over the world.
PepsiCo has announced no plans to change Mountain Dew, saying: “We can assure you that Mountain Dew is safe.”
Kantha Shelke, a food scientist and a spokeswoman for the Institute of Food Technologists, notes that BVO wasn’t always permitted in the U.S. About 50 years ago, FDA removed it from the market, but in 1977, it was approved for use in concentrations of up to 15 ppm.
Still, Shelke points out that at that time people consumed soft drinks only occasionally. “Today, the consumption of some of these beverages, particularly by a certain demographic, which is young males, is quite high,” she says.