Coca-Cola Co. (KO), the world’s largest beverage maker, plans to remove brominated vegetable oil from all its U.S. drinks by the end of this year, abandoning an ingredient that has been targeted by food activists.
The additive, known as BVO, will be taken out of both ready-to-drink beverages and fountain-machine formulas, Coca-Cola spokesman Josh Gold said in a statement yesterday. BVO is used as a stabilizer in drinks like Powerade, helping prevent ingredients from separating. PepsiCo Inc. (PEP), after removing BVO from Gatorade last year, said that it too is replacing the additive in the rest of its lineup.
BVO has drawn criticism on social media and online forums such as Change.org, where Sarah Kavanagh, a teenager from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, garnered thousands of signed petitions lobbying against it. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration lets drink companies use BVO at up to 15 parts per million, though the agency dropped it from its “Generally Recognized as Safe” list of food ingredients in 1970.
Health concerns about BVO stem from its use of bromide, the element found in brominated flame retardants, according to the Mayo Clinic. Coca-Cola, based in Atlanta, will switch to using sucrose acetate isobutyrate or glycerol ester of rosin -- either alone or in combination.
“Glycerol ester of rosin is commonly found in chewing gum and beverages, and SAIB has been used in beverages for over 14 years,” Gold said in the statement. “All of our beverages, including those with BVO, are safe and always have been -- and comply with all regulations in the countries where they are sold. The safety and quality of our products is our highest priority.”
Two varieties of Coke’s Powerade sports drink -- fruit punch and strawberry lemonade -- have already transitioned to glycerol ester of rosin, Gold said.
On Change.org, Kavanagh says she started her campaign after learning that BVO has been banned in Europe and Japan and became more concerned when she learned the ingredient was in drinks sold at her school.
At PepsiCo, BVO has been used in Mountain Dew and Amp Energy drinks, in addition to Gatorade.
“We regularly evaluate our formulas and ingredients to ensure they comply with all regulations and meet the high quality standards our consumers expect,” Jeff Dahncke, a spokesman for the Purchase, New York-based company, said in a statement. “We removed BVO from Gatorade in 2013 in response to our consumers and since that time we have been actively working to remove it from the rest of our product portfolio.”
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