For months the dire warnings have been circulated on social media and emails, in much the same way that dire warnings used to be circulated by mimeographed sheets and chain letters. There is an ingredient in citrus flavored sodas that is also used as a flame retardant. Beware, corporate food is criminally ignoring your health.
What is this mystery ingredient? It is called "brominated vegetable oil", and it is indeed used in flame retardant. But that may sound far worse than it is. Nonetheless, the stink surrounding brominated vegetable oil has led to its being eliminated as an ingredient in Powerade, the popular sports drink.
The purpose of using brominated vegetable oil in citrus-flavored soft drinks is to keep the ingredients from separating during shipping. Drinks that do not contain it may end up looking like they have floating pieces of pulp in them. The popular rural drink, Ski, once had that look. Now it does not, due to their use of brominated vegetable oil.
A Mississippi teen started a Change.org petition, questioning why a drink marketed to health-conscious people contained a flame retardant. As a result, folks started passing around the knowledge about what brominated vegetable oil is.
Powerade is made by Coca-Cola. Last year, PepsiCo, makers of Gatorade, announced that they would stop using brominated vegetable oil. Coca-Cola held off on committing to stopping using the ingredient. But now they have succumbed.
The U.S. has allowed the use of the ingredient in food. But it is banned in Europe, India, and Japan. The Mayo Clinic commented on the material:
"Health concerns about BVO stem from the fact that it contains bromine, the element found in brominated flame retardants. Only a few studies have looked at possible safety issues, but it appears that bromine builds up in the body. There also have been a few reports of people experiencing memory loss and skin and nerve problems after drinking excessive amounts (more than 2 liters a day) of soda containing BVO."
Image via Coca-Cola