FDA Bans Common Soda Ingredient Nationwide

In a July 2 update, the FDA announced it will be revoking the regulation that allows the use of brominated vegetable oil (BVO) in food products.

BVO, a vegetable oil modified with bromine, has been used in food since the 1920s. The FDA originally considered BVO generally recognized as safe (GRAS) until concerns arose in the late ’60s. At that point, BVO was removed from the GRAS list, and the FDA continued to evaluate new information regarding its safety.

Over the years, various studies have raised questions about the safety of BVO. However, a recent study conducted in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was the decisive factor. Released in 2022, this research showed that BVO is potentially toxic to the thyroid in rats.

“The study data suggest that oral exposure to BVO is associated with increased tissue levels of bromine and that at high exposure levels, the thyroid is a target organ of potential negative health effects in rodents,” the FDA stated.

Based on these findings, the FDA concluded that BVO is no longer considered safe for use in food. The ban will officially take effect on August 2, giving companies one year to reformulate, relabel, and deplete their inventory of BVO-containing products before the FDA enforces the new rule.

Despite this, many companies have already removed BVO from their products since the FDA began regulating the additive in 1970. “Many beverage makers reformulated their products to replace BVO with an alternative ingredient, and today, few beverages in the U.S. contain BVO,” said Jim Jones, FDA’s deputy commissioner for human foods, in a November 2023 statement.

However, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit research organization, some products still use BVO, mainly sodas like Sun Drop and certain store-brand sodas from retailers like Walmart. A Walmart spokesperson told Reuters that the company is aware of the new FDA ban and has been “working with private brand suppliers to reformulate products.”

“Currently, very few Walmart private brand items still contain BVO, and we expect them to be reformulated before the FDA compliance date,” the spokesperson shared.

Keurig Dr. Pepper, which owns Sun Drop, also told Reuters that it is actively working to reformulate the drink to remove BVO.

“The FDA’s decision to ban brominated vegetable oil in food is a victory for public health,” said Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs at the EWG. “But it’s disgraceful that it took decades of regulatory inaction to protect consumers from this dangerous chemical.”

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