Which Sodas Contain BVO? FDA Bans Food Additive Due to Health Risk

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has banned the use of a food additive known as brominated vegetable oil, concluding that it is no longer safe to consume.

Brominated vegetable oil is a stabilizer used in citrus-flavored beverages and was previously approved by the FDA for use in small amounts of 15 parts per million or lower. However, according to the FDA, not many products in the United States still use brominated vegetable oil.

The FDA first proposed banning BVO in November of last year. The news came shortly after California banned BVO and three other food additives in October 2023.

BVO was also banned in the United Kingdom in 1970, followed by the European Union in 2008, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an independent food and health watchdog group. India and Japan have also banned the ingredient.

What is brominated vegetable oil?

Brominated vegetable oil, also known as BVO, is an oil that has been modified with bromine, a naturally occurring chemical element, according to the FDA. It is primarily used as a food stabilizer in citrus beverages to prevent the flavorings from separating and floating to the top.

BVO used to be on the FDA’s list of ingredients generally regarded as safe. However, according to the CSPI, after multiple toxicity studies by the Canadian Food and Drug Directorate in 1969, BVO was restricted to products containing food flavorings.

On July 3, the FDA withdrew regulations that allowed the use of BVO in foods.

Why is brominated vegetable oil banned?

The FDA said it banned brominated vegetable oil after “results of studies conducted in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) demonstrated potential adverse health effects in humans.”

More specifically, these were animal studies that showed BVO had “toxic effects on the thyroid gland,” Thomas Galligan, Ph.D., chief scientist for food additives and supplements at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, tells TODAY.com.

A study published in 2022 — described as “infallible” by Michael Hansen, Ph.D., a senior nutrition scientist at Consumer Reports — found that BVO can disrupt thyroid function, leading to hypothyroidism (when the gland produces too little thyroid hormone), weight gain, and depression.

The BVO ban goes into effect in the U.S. on August 2, 2024, after which companies will have one year to reformulate, relabel and stop selling products containing BVO.

Which soft drinks contain BVO?

“Most of the major (soft drink) brands have already removed BVO from their formulas,” says Galligan.

However, there are drinks on the market that contain BVO, such as Sun Drop from Keurig Dr Pepper.

Sun Drop, made by Keurig Dr Pepper.Dr. Peper

“We are currently reformulating Sun Drop to no longer include this ingredient and remain in compliance with all state and federal regulations,” a KDP spokesperson said in an email statement to TODAY.com.

TODAY.com also identified a soda sold at Walmart that contains BVO: Great Value Orangette orange soda.

Orangette orange lemonade, sold at Walmart.Walmart

“We are aware of the recent FDA action regarding the use of brominated vegetable oil (BVO) in food. Walmart has been working with private label suppliers to reformulate products. Currently, there are only a few Walmart private labels that contain BVO, and we expect to reformulate them prior to the FDA compliance date,” a Walmart spokesperson told TODAY.com via email. (Great Value is a Walmart brand.)

TODAY.com also identified store-brand orange sodas containing brominated vegetable oil that are sold at Giant.

According to the website, the orange soda brands contain the BVO brand.Giant Food

In an emailed statement to TODAY, a Giant spokesperson said, in part: “We are aware of the FDA’s regulations regarding BVO in products and we are committed to following FDA guidance when reformulating our products that currently contain this ingredient. … Prior to the rule taking effect, Giant Food had already begun reformulating our products to remove BVO while ensuring we maintain the quality standards our customers expect. … We will continue to work diligently to comply with FDA regulations regarding BVO, and ensure our products meet the highest safety and quality standards.”

Supermarket chain HEB also sells private label orange juice with BVO, TODAY.com discovered. The supermarket chain did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tips to see if a soft drink is made with BVO

To determine if a soft drink contains BVO, Galligan suggests first looking at the ingredient list, which is required to indicate whether the drink contains BVO. It will say “brominated vegetable oil” or “brominated” and a specific type of oil, such as soybean oil.

According to Galligan, there are a few other things to watch out for to avoid soda with BVO:

  • It is mainly found in citrus-flavored drinks.
  • If the liquor looks cloudy throughout the bottle, it may contain BVO.
  • With unbranded soft drinks, the chance of BVO is greater than with soft drinks from A-brands.
  • If you drink soda from a tap in a restaurant, most brands of soda are A-brands. The chance that it contains BVO is smaller. However, ask a restaurant employee about the brand and ingredients if you are concerned.

Do drinks other than soft drinks contain BVO?

Galligan says BVO is typically found in carbonated beverages, but noncarbonated beverages can contain it, too, Hansen says. So both experts recommend double-checking the label before buying citrus-flavored beverages.

“If it’s a citrus-flavored drink, it’s cloudy and it’s a different brand, those are signs that you might want to turn the bottle over and look at the ingredients list,” Galligan says.

With 100% fruit juice this is not a problem, he adds.

Do Coca-Cola and Mountain Dew contain BVO?

No, according to Coca-Cola.com, Coca-Cola does not contain brominated vegetable oil.

And no, according to the maker, PepsiCo, there is no BVO on Mountain Dew’s ingredients list.

PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have essentially stopped using BVO in their products, NBC News reported. Gatorade also no longer contains BVO, Hansen said.

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