Soft drinks consumed by millions of Americans each year could be banned or forced to change their recipes, as health officials consider banning a chemical in them.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended banning brominated vegetable oil (BVO) after linking it to headaches, memory loss, balance problems and thyroid problems.
The additive is used to help with citrus flavor and is found in leading soft drinks like Sun Drop, made by the same company behind Dr Pepper.
While BVO used to be much more common and found in brands like Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Mountain Dew, it is now primarily found in brand-name soft drinks made by Walmart and Food Lion.
Sun Drop, Walmart’s Mountain Lightning and regional grocer Food Lion’s beverages contain brominated vegetable oil, which the FDA has suggested banning.
Brominated vegetable oil is used in beverages, including some Sun Drop soft drinks.
One of the most recognizable examples is Sun Drop. The drink comes in a blend of lemon, lime, and sweet orange flavors, all of which contain BVO.
However, the company plans to remove BVO from its ingredients list.
“We have been actively reformulating Sun Drop to no longer include this ingredient and will continue to comply with all state and national regulations,” a spokesperson said.
The citrus flavor also contains yellow 5, which has been banned in countries such as the United Kingdom because it contains benzidine, a human and animal carcinogen permitted in low doses.
According to the FDA, ingestion of free benzidine increases the risk of cancer to just below the threshold of “concern,” or one cancer per million people.
On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the worst, the consumer watchdog Environmental Working Group (EWG) rates Sun Drop a 10 due to its use of BVO, Yellow 5, and the additive sodium benzoate.
BVO has also been found in Faygo, a Detroit-based brand that sells more than 50 soda flavors in stores nationwide.
The brand’s Moon Mist flavor scores a nine on EWG’s scale because it contains BVO, potassium benzoate, and the artificial sweetener sucralose.
However, BVO is most commonly found in regional and store brands.
Mountain Lightning, a citrus soda manufactured and sold by Walmart, also contains BVO and yellow 5.
The drink is a cheaper alternative to Mountain Dew, which stopped using BVO in 2019.
And several soft drinks from the Food Lion store, which operates primarily in the South, Northeast and Midwest, contain BVO.
The brand’s caffeine-free Omazing Orange Soda and caffeine-free Rip Roarin’ Fruit Punch Soda varieties are two of the most notable examples.
Last week, the FDA recommended banning BVO after finding it was no longer safe for human consumption.
The agency said: ‘The FDA is issuing a proposed rule now because the agency has recent data from studies it conducted that demonstrate adverse health effects in animals at levels that more closely approximate real-world human exposure.
“Based on these data and the remaining unresolved safety issues, the FDA can no longer conclude that the use of BVO in foods is safe.”
The proposed ruling was published last week in the federal register, the official record of government actions.
It will then enter a 75-day comment period where interested parties, such as soft drink companies, will be able to submit responses to the proposed rule.
These will then be reviewed by the FDA, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) before deciding whether to approve the measure.
If the plan is finalized, BVO will no longer be allowed in any foods.
Brominated vegetable oil (BVO) is an additive used to prevent the citrus flavor from separating from the drink.
It has been used since the 1920s, and between the 1950s and 1960s, BVO was deemed generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for use by the FDA.
However, the additive lost its GRAS status in the 1970s, and since then regulators have monitored studies to determine whether it poses a risk to human health.
At the time, studies showed that animals fed BVO had adverse cardiac effects, although additional studies resolved those safety concerns.
In 2014, FDA scientists began reevaluating BVO after studies in rodents suggested that repeated, prolonged exposure to the chemical could cause neurological problems such as memory loss, balance and coordination problems, and headaches. The animals studied also had elevated levels of bromine in their tissues, which posed a danger to thyroid health.
BVO is currently licensed for use in small amounts in beverages to prevent the citrus flavor from separating from the beverage and floating to the top.
Exposure to the additive can irritate the nose, throat, lungs, and mucous membranes inside the mouth, throat, stomach, and lungs.
The European Union banned the use of brominated vegetable oil in its soft drinks in 2008.
California banned BVO last month, along with other additives such as red dye number 3, which is included in various candies to enhance their color.
Soft drinks containing brominated vegetable oil.
Sun Drop Citrus Flavored Soda
Diet Sun Drop soda with citrus flavor
Sun Drop Soda with cherry, lemon and citrus flavor
Diet Sun Drop Cherry Lemon Citrus Soft Drink
Sun Drop Citrus Flavored Soda, Caffeine Free
Diet Sun Drop Citrus Flavored Soda, Caffeine Free
Faygo Moon Mist flavor soft drink
Great Value Mountain Lightning Citrus Flavored Soda
Borden Sunburst Pineapple Orange Drink
Borden Sunburst Pink Lemonade Drink
Del’s Mandarin Orange Juice
DG Genuine Jamaican Ginger Beer
Food Lion Omazing Caffeine-Free Orange Soda
Food Lion Rip Roarin’ Fruit Punch Soda Caffeine Free
Super Chill Soda, Mt Chill, citrus flavor