In response to customer pressure, PepsiCo has announced they will remove a controversial chemical that is added to orange Gatorade. As we’ve written about before, brominated vegetable oils (BVOs) are patented flame retardant chemicals that are also used (for another purpose) in many citrus flavored sodas. The chemicals have been linked to a number of health hazards including heart damage, increased heart triglycerides, reduced fertility and behavioral problems. Brominated flame retardants can also be transferred from breast milk to babies.
BVOs have been used in approximately 10% of sodas for decades in North America. So why is a flame retardant chemical being used in sodas? It’s most commonly found in citrus flavored sodas and beverages to keep the fruit flavoring suspended in the drink, which is why the drink looks “cloudy”. Drinks containing BVOs include Mountain Dew, Squirt, Fanta Orange, Fresca Citrus, and of course, Orange Gatorade.
After news of flame retardant chemicals in Gatorade and other sodas came out last year, customer complaints quickly mounted. One of these unhappy customers was Sarah Kavanaugh, a 15-year-old high school student from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Sarah found out about these chemicals tainting her favorite drinks after searching for an ingredient she saw on a Gatorade label. In November, she started a Change.org petition calling for Gatorade’s manufacturer, PepsiCo, to remove BVO from the products. The petition gathered nearly 200,000 signatures from around the world in just a few months. PepsiCo responded, announcing that they would remove the flame retardant chemical from their Gatorade formula.
Yes, we’re happy to hear that PepsiCo has responded to the demands to eliminate this toxic chemical, but why stop at Gatorade? There’s a whole list of citrus flavored sodas, several of which are made by PepsiCo, that contain the chemical. So why is Pepsi and other soda companies leaving those other citrus beverage consumers in the toxic dust?
Our other question: what do companies know about the safety of sucrose acetate isobutyrate, the chemical that may be replacing BVOs? We don’t want this to be another case of the Toxic Shell Game—when industry swaps out one harmful chemical for another untested chemical that may have harmful effects on our health.
What’s a soda-drinker to do? Well, maybe part of that New Year’s resolution should be to drink less of the stuff. More importantly, soft drink companies should resolve to get more responsible about the health and safety of all of their products.
Until then, we’re staying away from those fire retardant chemical-filled drinks. No soda fires to extinguish here.