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FDA Proposes Banning Food Additive BVO

brominated vegetable oil

Following California’s lead, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed to ban the food additive brominated vegetable oil (BVO). Toxicology studies conducted in collaboration with the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) led to the FDA concluding that BVO is “no longer safe” due largely in part to its ability to harm thyroid function and neurological health.1

BVO is a synthetic chemical that bonds vegetable oil to the chemical halogen bromine. It was originally patented as a flame retardant and acts as an emulsifier to help keep flavors from separating. BVO has been considered “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) by the FDA since the 1930s, with a temporary ban in 1970. In 1977, food manufacturers convinced the FDA to allow BVO again in smaller doses, and the additive has remained ever since. 2

The chemical was used mainly by the soda industry but in 2014, both Pepsi and Coca-Cola removed BVO from its drinks including Mountain Dew, Fanta and Gatorade following backlash from consumer advocacy groups. However, BVO can still be found in many smaller brand and store brand sodas such as Sun Drop and Orangette. Many baked goods, fruit-flavored syrups, energy drinks, and sports drinks still contain BVO.3 It is also still one of the main ingredients in the Glucola drink given to pregnant women to screen for gestational diabetes.

As seems to be the trend, the U.S. lags behind other countries who have already proactively banned the toxic ingredient. The United Kingdom banned BVO in 1970, India in 1990, the European Union in 2008, and Japan in 2010.4

BVO Can Lead to Memory Loss, Tremors, Thyroid Disruption

The harmful effects of BVO stem largely from its ability to deposit in the brain and other fat-rich areas, causing a gradual buildup of bromine which can disrupt neurological functions and cause memory loss, tremors, and headaches. The bioaccumulation of BVO also demonstrated the potential to disrupt thyroid function in mice studies. Since bromine is chemically similar to iodine, which is used to make thyroid hormones, researchers have been concerned that bromine displaces iodine, interrupting normal thyroid function.4

According to the consumer advocacy group Consumer Reports, peer-reviewed studies on rodents linked BVO to reproductive, behavioral, and developmental issues, as well as heart and liver problems.5 The California Food Safety Act which banned BVO along with Red Dye No. 3, potassium bromate, and propylparaben goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2027.6 The FDA stated they are also currently reviewing “Red No. 3”.

Government Oversight of Food Supply May Be Seen as Red Flag

The FDA’s statement on the proposed BVO ban says that if approved, the changes will allow the agency to “fully realize the preventive vision laid out in the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), as well as “embrace innovative food and agricultural technologies that will position the agency to more effectively regulate and uphold safety of the nation’s food supply.”7

The FSMA, which was mentioned in the statement on BVO, was signed into law by President Obama in 2011 and gives the FDA new authority to regulate the way foods are grown, harvested, and processed.7

the FDA bans on BVO and other harmful additives coincides with measurements of increased government control over the food supply, particularly the monitoring of farms and ranches. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the FSMA “focuses on preventing food safety problems before they occur and recognizes the importance of strong foodborne illness and outbreak surveillance systems.”8


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Click here to view References:
1 Skwarecki B. What is BVO and why is the FDA banning it in drinks? Lifehacker Nov. 3, 2023.
2 Israel B. Brominated battle: soda chemical has cloudy health history. Scientific American Dec. 12, 2011.
3 Anderson E, Zagorski J. Trending- brominated vegetable oil (BVO). Michigan State University Center for Research on Ingredient Safety Nov. 6, 2023.
4 Crezo A. BVO: why the FDA might finally ban brominated vegetable oil. Center for Science in the Public Interest Dec. 14, 2023.
5 Staff Writer. FDA moves to ban BVO amid neurological and other health concerns. Psychiatrist.com Nov. 6, 2023.
6 Bergantino D. California bans four common food additives: what does it mean for consumers? The University of Rhode Island News Nov. 1, 2023.
7 U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
8 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC and the Food Safety Modernization Act. Dec. 20, 2022.

One Response

  1. For people whom turn to private groups, independent researchers, organic advocates, and other healthy food informational sources; This is old news. We have long since stopped using and consuming as many products with adulterated vegetable oils present. For people whom wait for the government to correct known approval issues and actually stand up against big corporations whom pay for the approvals; Another government miracle, they actually regulated something everyone else knew was dangerous for several decades now. Magically what was ‘safe’, is no longer ‘safe’. Thank you government, on top of the issues again, remarkable. These people are not experts. This is not science.

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