Consumer pressure has forced PepsiCo Inc. to remove a controversial ingredient banned in Europe and Asia from its Gatorade sports drink line.
Brominated vegetable oil (BVO) is used by the company as an emulsifier in citrus flavors of the popular sports drink, in addition to another drink, Mountain Dew, to distribute flavor evenly, according to a PepsiCo spokeswoman.
The ingredient is also used by Coca-Cola in its Fanta softdrink line, and Dr Pepper Snapple Group’s Sun Drop and Squirt drinks.
While the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) considers BVO safe as a food additive, the ingredient has been patented as a flame retardant and is banned in Japan, India and the European Union.
Several adverse side effects have been medically documented in those who have consumed large amounts of soda containing BVO. The New England Journal of Medicine noted in 2003 that a man who drank eight liters of Ruby Red Squirt daily had his skin turn red and develop lesions diagnosed as bromoderma.
In another case, a man who drank 2-4 liters of BVO-laced cola a day experienced memory loss, tremors, fatigue, loss of muscle coordination, headache, and ptosis of the right eyelid, as well as elevated serum chloride, according to the Journal of Toxicology. The man eventually lost the ability to walk and took two months of hemodialysis treatment to recover.
An online petition created on the Change.org website several months ago garnered more than 200,000 signatures before PepsiCo’s announcement. The company claims it had been planning for a year to stop using BVO in its drinks and the move is not in response to the petition.