FDA’s ban on tangy soda emulsifier BVO to echo global standards

by Shura Guseva

In an unprecedented step, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is set to ban brominated vegetable oil (BVO), an ingredient found in certain tangy sodas, including popular brands sold by Walmart and other retailers. This decision, marking a significant policy shift, was prompted by recent toxicological studies indicating potential harm to the thyroid and other major organs. BVO, once deemed safe, has been in use for decades as an emulsifier to maintain the consistency of flavorings in beverages. However, the ingredient lost its “generally recognized as safe” status in the 1970s, necessitating further scrutiny into its health impacts.

FDA's ban on tangy soda emulsifier BVO to echo global standards

New research, including a study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, suggests that BVO may have toxic effects, particularly in animal models, leading to a reevaluation of its safety for human consumption. The FDA’s James Jones stated, “The agency has recent data from studies it conducted that demonstrate adverse health effects in animals at levels more closely approximating real-world human exposure. Based on these data and remaining unresolved safety questions, the FDA can no longer conclude that the use of BVO in food is safe.”

This regulatory change brings the U.S. in line with the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan, India, and other nations where BVO is already prohibited. Companies like Coca Cola and PepsiCo had preemptively removed BVO from their products in 2014 and 2019, respectively. Moreover, Keurig Dr Pepper, the manufacturer of Sun Drop, disclosed that it had been in the process of reformulating its products to exclude BVO prior to the FDA’s announcement.

The FDA’s proposal to revoke the regulation authorizing the use of BVO is a decisive step towards ensuring consumer safety, reflecting a growing international consensus on the need for rigorous food safety standards. As the rule-change gears up to take effect, it is expected to impact a variety of store-brand sodas that currently contain the chemical.

In anticipation of the ban, a spokesperson for Keurig Dr Pepper reassured consumers, stating, “We have been actively reformulating Sun Drop to no longer include this ingredient and will remain compliant with all state and national regulations.” This move is indicative of a broader trend in the food and beverage industry, where consumer health concerns increasingly drive ingredient transparency and product reformulation.

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