FDA bans ingredient found in some citrus-flavored sodas

Food and beverage makers will no longer be allowed to use brominated vegetable oil as an ingredient in their products, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday.

Modified with the chemical bromine and used to keep flavoring from floating to the top of citrus drinks, brominated vegetable oil (BVO) in food is no longer considered safe, the regulatory agency said in a statement. 

The rule takes effect on Aug. 2, 2024, with manufacturers given another year to reformulate, relabel and deplete their inventories of BVO-containing products before the agency starts enforcing its ban, the FDA said.

People should continue checking the ingredients listed on products to “avoid BVO, as some older stock may still be in circulation,” the Center for Science in the Public Interest said in a statement declaring the national ban to be long overdue but necessary.

The substance that helps blend liquids is used in about 70 sodas and beverages, most of them vibrantly colored and citrus-flavored, according to Consumer Reports, citing a database maintained by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

The FDA announced its ban eight months after the agency proposed it, citing studies on animals that showed the ingredient may have adverse health effects in humans.

The FDA determined in 1970 that BVO was not generally recognized as safe, with many beverage makers in the ensuing decades swapping out the ingredient with alternatives. As things stand, few beverages in the U.S. today contain BVO, according to the agency. 

A spokesperson for Keurig Dr Pepper told CBS MoneyWatch in November that the beverage maker was reformulating its Sun Drop soda to no longer include the ingredient. 

“Toxic additives like BVO that have been shown to pose toxic risks to the thyroid and other chronic health problems should not be allowed in our food,” Brian Ronholm, director of food policy at Consumer Reports said in a statement. “We’re encouraged that the FDA has re-examined recent studies documenting the health risks posed by BVO and is taking action to prohibit its use.”

Already banned for use in food in most European countries, BVO was among four food additives banned by California in October.

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