Soda manufacturers in the United States have long added brominated vegetable oil (BVO) to their drinks, especially those with a citrus flavor. What many Americans do not know is that BVO was first patented as a flame retardant and is banned in foods in Japan and Europe.
What is the danger? BVO has been linked to thyroid damage, increased risk of cancer, infertility, rashes, and psychiatric problems. Recently, both Pepsi and Coca-Cola announced that they will remove BVO from their drinks (this being due to consumer pressure), so, Pepsi and Coca-Cola’s decision is a step in the right direction for the health of people.
However, we need to be careful not to celebrate too quickly. In Europe, drink manufacturers have replaced BVO with hydrocolloids, which are natural agents that provide stability to the drink mixture (which is the reason given by drink manufacturers for using BVO in their drinks). However, in the U.S., drink manufacturers have opted to replace BVO with sucrose acetate isobutyrate (SAIB) and glycerol ester of rosin (GEGR and GEWR).
The problem with SAIR, GEGR, and GEWR is that these additives have had very few studies made on them, and, therefore, the safety of these substances is not certain. However, gum rosins received a poor safety rating from the European Food Safety Authority.
Keep in mind, also, that BVO is not the only source of bromine that could be finding its way into your body. For example, pesticides on strawberries, plastics, baked goods with potassium bromate, and other household materials may contain bromide that can effect the health of you and your family. The dangers listed above for BVO apply to other bromine sources that you come into contact with.
Having said that, the FDA, of course, is saying that BVO is “not a public health priority” at the moment. This pronouncement after the FDA allowing BVO to be used on an “interim” basis back in 1970 and never having changed that status. This does make one wonder what would cause the FDA to not revise a forty-year-old status of a very commonly used chemical.
When it comes down to it, your best bet is to avoid sodas and sports drinks of any kind. Pure water will be the best for you in both the short and the long term.
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