Gatorade through its parent company Pepsico announced earlier today that it won't be adding brominated vegetable oil to its drinks any more. This announcement came at the result of of a petition on Change.org, started by one 15 year old, Sarah Kavanaugh of Hattiesburg Mississippi.
Brominated vegetable oil, you see, has some issues. For one thing, according to the New York Times, "Studies have suggested there are possible side effects, including neurological disorders and altered thyroid hormones."
What did the spokespeople for Gatorade have to say about it? According to the Times:
Molly Carter, a spokeswoman for Gatorade, said the company had been testing alternatives to the chemical for roughly a year “due to customer feedback.” She said Gatorade initially was not going to make an announcement, “since we don’t find a health and safety risk with B.V.O.”
But the petition, signed by roughly 200,000 people, made them announce the news quicker. Good news! BVO as it is called, which is used as an emulsifier, will be replaced with the ever popular sucrose acetate isobutyrate, which sounds more like a drug that forces you to tell the truth than an emulsifier.
Gatorade, who hasn't had it easy lately is probably anxious to avoid any more bad press. Can't blame them, really. Still though, some finessing of the above statement would have helped. It doesn't matter if you find a health risk. It's more about what objective scientists are thinking based on their research.
Patented by chemical companies as a flame retardant, and banned in food throughout Europe and Japan, BVO has been added to sodas for decades in North America. Now some scientists have a renewed interest in this little-known ingredient, found in 10 percent of sodas in the United States.
After a few extreme soda binges—not too far from what many gamers regularly consume—a few patients have needed medical attention for skin lesions, memory loss and nerve disorders, all symptoms of overexposure to bromine. Other studies suggest that BVO could be building up in human tissues, just like other brominated compounds such as flame retardants. In mouse studies, big doses caused reproductive and behavioral problems.
The petition also points out the slight, shall we say, hypocrisy of Gatorade. If they're selling their sports hydration drink in countries where BVO is banned, they clearly have a way of tweaking the formula so it doesn't effect the taste/ And this seems to be the biggest pressing problem on their end. Point is, it shouldn't be that hard to shift the Euro formula to the States.
So yeah. Scientists are starting to think that BVO is not much different from the Bromiated flame retardants which are one of those nasty things that build up in our bodies and find their way into breast milk, too. This kind of flame retardant/food additive is potentially as bad as asbestos. And while Gatorade's statement that the removal had been in the process for more than a year and change.org had nothing to do with it, one has to wonder how much credence there is to the "we were already doing it," line of defense. If they had nothing to do with it, why make the announcement a week after the petition got circulated? Color me dubious...
Ms. Carter's statement also goes on to say the new reformulated flavors will roll out in the next few months but don't consider it a recall at all because “...we’re not recalling Gatorade...we don’t think our products are unsafe. We don’t think there are health or safety risks.”
That statement may hold up in court, but in the court of common sense, not bloody likely. The Food and Drug Administration classified BVO as Generally Recognized As Safe in 1958. But this classification was then revoked in 1970, and in fact a strict limit is imposed for use as a food additive. Go back and reread the potential health risks and see if you feel comfortable drinking this stuff during your next workout.
By the way, Gatorade isn't the only drink with this stuff in it. Powerade and some other soft-drinks like Mountain Dew use BVO, too. Might want to check it out next time you grab a soda. Better yet, stick with water.