The FDA plans to outlaw brominated vegetable oil (BVO), a once-popular soda emulsifier linked to health risks
In a groundbreaking move, the FDA is advocating for a nationwide ban on brominated vegetable oil (BVO), an ingredient previously utilized in citrus-flavored sodas to enhance taste. Recent toxicology studies have raised alarming health concerns, prompting the FDA to reconsider its stance on the additive. BVO, already banned in numerous countries, including India, Japan, and the European Union, could soon face prohibition across the United States.
A Long-debated emulsifying agent ban
Brominated vegetable oil, introduced in the 1930s as an emulsifying agent in sodas, has faced scrutiny over the years due to its potential health risks. While initially classified as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA in the 1950s, concerns about its toxicity led to a reversal in the 1960s. Subsequently, the FDA limited its use to concentrations no greater than 15 parts per million in citrus-flavored beverages.
Despite these restrictions, questions persisted about BVO's impact on human health, with studies pointing to bromine accumulation in tissues and potential interference with thyroid function. The FDA's recent proposal to revoke BVO's registration reflects a shift in their approach, acknowledging the emerging evidence and prioritizing consumer safety.
Industry shifts and implications for food additives
Major soda companies, including Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo, have proactively phased out BVO from their products over the last decade. The proposed nationwide ban could signal a broader trend in reassessing the safety of food additives. FDA Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods, James Jones, revealed ongoing reviews of regulations governing food additives, emphasizing a more dynamic approach to restrict any coloring agents linked to cancer in humans or animals.
While the final decision on reclassifying BVO is pending a lengthy review process likely to conclude in early 2024, the FDA's move raises questions about the future of food safety regulations. With suitable alternatives already in use globally, the absence of BVO is unlikely to impact the taste of citrus beverages.
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