FDA will no longer allow this potentially harmful additive found in some sodas

ByMadeline Holcombe, CNN CNNWire logo
Wednesday, July 3, 2024
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The US Food and Drug Administration will no longer allow the use of brominated vegetable oil in food products, the agency said Tuesday.

Brominated vegetable oil (BVO) is vegetable oil modified with the chemical bromine and has been used in small amounts to keep citrus flavoring from floating to the top in beverages, according to an FDA statement.

Dozens of products - mostly sodas - use BVO as an ingredient, according to the Food Scores database run by the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit research and advocacy group that focuses on consumer health, toxic chemicals and pollutants.

The rule that no longer allows BVO in food will go into effect on August 2, but companies will have one year after that date to reformulate and relabel their products as well as deplete their BVO inventory, according to the FDA statement.

The food additive was removed from the FDA's list of Generally Recognized As Safe or "GRAS" substance list in 1970 and has been regulated since then, the agency said.

Because of the past restrictions, there are only a small number of products that still contain BVO, the FDA said.

"Over the years many beverage makers reformulated their products to replace BVO with an alternative ingredient," James Jones, FDA deputy commissioner for human foods, said in a 2023 statement.

Additionally, a 2012 Change.org petition with more than 200,000 signatures brought attention to health concerns, according to an EWG news release. It also said many companies eliminated it from consumer products due to market pressure.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation into law in October 2023 prohibiting the manufacture, sale or distribution of foods that contain BVO as well as red dye No. 3, potassium bromate and propylparaben.

Studies point to health concerns

Brominated vegetable oil can accumulate in the body and has been linked to health hazards, according to the EWG. Those include nervous system damage, headaches, skin and mucous membrane irritation, fatigue and loss of muscle coordination and memory.

A 1976 study found that consumption of BVO by pigs damaged their hearts, kidneys, livers and testicles.

The FDA cited a 2022 study in the proposal to revoke the BVO regulation that found rats given BVO had the substance's derivatives accumulated in their heart, liver and fat.

The reconsideration of BVO regulations shows that the FDA is reviewing new evidence as it emerges and responding to public concerns, CNN wellness expert Dr. Leana Wen said in a previous story.

What should people do until the BVO ban goes into effect on August 2?

"My takeaway from the studies is that how much and how often you drink matters," Wen said. "If someone drinks one soda at a barbecue that happens to contain BVO, that's not a big deal.

"However, if someone is drinking a soda a day, every day, they should be careful and check out the ingredients."

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