Ingredient Profile #3: Brominated Vegetable Oil

I can honestly say that I never thought brominated vegetable oil and flame retardant were phrases that could ever appear in the same sentence.  However, all of this changed when I began to read about this type of oil, which is surprisingly used in roughly 10% of our nation’s sodas and energy drinks.  Turns out, brominated vegetable oil is a food additive that acts as an emulsifier to hold the contents of a beverage together.  For example, this oil is contained in Mountain Dew to ensure that the beverage is homogeneous throughout, so the citrus flavoring of the drink is bound evenly throughout the can.  In addition, this chemical also gives sodas (especially Mountain Dew) their cloudy look.

This substance is in fact banned in Europe and Japan, and it’s not difficult to see why:  this ingredient was first procured as a flame retardant.  These flame retardants have been added to countless everyday household objects, including:  children’s toys,  foam cushions in upholstered couches,  and the plastics in some electronics.  Therefore, it didn’t come as much of a surprise when scientists began to hypothesize that symptoms from exposure to brominated vegetable oil could be quite similar to the ones from brominated flame retardants.  The concern about brominated vegetable oil is its link to skin lesions, memory loss, and some nerve disorders.  Furthermore, it has been proven that the element bromine from the oil has the capacity to build up in your fatty tissues overtime, thus having a negative effect on your body.  Animal studies have also been conducted that indicate excess portions of foods that contain the chemical can cause reproductive problems.

However, the good news is that consumers have become more aware of the hazards and side effects associated with brominated vegetable oil and have begun to voice their opinions about how it should be taken out of beverage formulas.  For instance, Gatorade removed this oil from its products as a result of a petition begun by Sarah Kavanagh, from Hattiesburg Mississippi.  More than 200,000 people signed this document and it definitely caught the attention of PepsiCo Incorporated.  Currently, another petition has started with the hope of trying to convince Coca-Cola to remove brominated vegetable oil from Powerade.  With 49,000 signatures and counting,  signers are showing that they no longer want to accept chemical additives in the beverages that they consume.

It’s empowering to learn what other consumers are doing to raise the American standard for foods and beverages.  Keep in mind that producers will usually try to get away with as little as they can, nutritionally speaking, so it’s really awesome to see buyers standing up for their rights.  The wonderful thing about being a citizen of this country is our unlimited and numerous opportunities for communication with each other.  Together, we can all be the voice of change in the food industry.

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂

P.S.  I am pleased to announce that you will receive an additional post this week by guest blogger, Elizabeth (my sister!).  As part of a Language Arts assignment, she has to publish a writing piece.  Elizabeth is as passionate about nutrition as I am, so I know you will enjoy it!  I’ll be back with my regular Tuesday post next week.


Environmental Health News and Israel, Brett. ScientificAmerican. Scientific American Incorporated. 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.

Lopez, Ricardo. “After Gatorade Removes Controversial Ingredient BVO, Will Powerade?” Los Angeles Times 13 Feb. 2013: Web. Touch.LATimes. 20 Feb. 2013.


4 thoughts on “Ingredient Profile #3: Brominated Vegetable Oil

  1. Jen

    Hi Katie,
    I never knew that even existed. Interestingly enough, I know an exchange student currently here in Massachusetts. When he arrived he was drawn to soda, but especially Mountain Dew. He states that he became quickly addicted to it. Well, he is going home in about a month and decided he better stop drinking it because he cannot get it at home. He was sick for 5 days while it worked its way out of his system. But now he reports having more energy, feeling better, and he sleeps much better.
    Have a great week, I cannot wait to hear from your guest blogger!

  2. El

    Well Katie that blog packed a punch, it never ceases to amaze me, what suppliers will do
    to sell their products. Thank you for this important information!
    El 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s