Tuesday December 05, 2023

FDA ban looms over liver-damaging brominated vegetable oil sports drinks, sodas

Brominated vegetable oil is no longer safe to use and poses risk to thyroid, says research

By Web Desk
November 03, 2023
An athlete drinking a sports drink. — X/@getty
An athlete drinking a sports drink. — X/@getty

The use of brominated vegetable oil, which was formerly widely used in well-known beverages like Gatorade and Mountain Dew but has been gradually phased out due to its link to possible health risks, including damage to the liver, heart, and brain, was proposed to be outlawed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Thursday.

To prevent components from separating, fruit-flavored sodas and sports drinks typically utilise brominated vegetable oil as a food additive. It has bromine, which is a component of flame retardants.

While the ingredient is no longer used in many major beverage brands (such Pepsi and Coca-Cola), it is still present in several popular regional beverages (like Sun Drop citrus-flavored soda) and smaller grocery store brands.

Japan and the European Union forbid using the component in food or beverages.

Earlier this month, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill outlawing four food additives, among them brominated vegetable oil. This made California the first state to do so for substances that the FDA has not yet approved.

The FDA declared on Thursday that brominated vegetable oil was no longer safe to use following research on rodents that revealed the chemical is harmful to the thyroid, a hormone that is essential for controlling metabolism, blood pressure, and heart rhythm. 

Additionally, prior research has indicated that it can be detrimental to the heart, liver, and nervous system.

“Based on these data and remaining unresolved safety questions, the FDA can no longer conclude that the use of BVO in food is safe,” the agency said in a release.

In 1970, the FDA took the ingredient off the list of substances “Generally Recognised as Safe and Effective" due to concerns it could cause harm to the body, although the agency has continued to say that the ingredient can be used in products on an “interim" basis.

The FDA announced that until January 17th, it will take public comments on the proposed rule.

Before imposing the new regulation, the government stated that it would give beverage manufacturers at least a year to reformulate or relabel their products in the event that the ban is authorised.

According to the FDA, red dye No 3, a synthetic food colouring that was also included in California's prohibition on food additives, may pose a new risk of cancer.