The safety of brominated vegetable oil (BVO), an additive found in a number of popular citrus-flavored sodas and drinks, is under new scrutiny.
According to Scientific American, concern about the safety of BVO, an ingredient in about 10 percent of drinks sold in the United States, has arisen following reports of people needing treatment for skin lesions, memory loss, and nerve disorders after soda binges. Video gamers, in particular, consume large quantities of these drinks, which they refer to as “gamer fuel.”
BVO, derived from soybeans or corn, is an emulsifier used to keep fruit flavorings from separating in sodas and other drinks. Patented as flame retardant, BVO has long been banned as a food additive in Europe and Japan. In a 1977 ruling, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) established an acceptable limit of up to15 parts per million for BVO in sodas, according to the New York Times. Consumers are now pushing for new studies and a reexamination of data that is several decades old. Bromine, the element found in brominated flame-retardants, can build up in the body and some studies have linked this to neurological impairments and other adverse health effects.
A National Cancer Institute study, cited by Scientific American, found that sodas are the largest source of calories for teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18 and for adults, sodas, energy and sports drinks are the fourth largest source of calories. Drinks containing BVO include Mountain Dew, Squirt, Fanta Orange, Gatorade Thirst Quencher Orange, Powerade Strawberry Lemonade, and Fresca Original Citrus.
Consumers are advised to check drink labels. BVO, if present, will be found toward the end of the ingredient list.