Sarah Kavanagh, a sophomore high school student from Mississippi and a dedicated vegetarian, became concerned about the ingredients in a bottle of Gatorade she was about to consume. She determined there were no animal products in the drink, but became concerned about the ingredient known as brominated vegetable oil. After googling the ingredient, Sarah determined that it was linked to a long list of possible side effects, including neurological disorders and altered thyroid hormones.
Sarah’s concern about the ingredient led her to start a petition on Change.org, a web based platform for social change. In her petition, Sarah said that one of the elements of brominated vegetable oil, bromine, is often used to make products flame retardant, She stated, “I’m not a scientist, but if there are lots of suspicious things about putting a flame retardant chemical in Gatorade (most flavors don’t even use it!) then why would Gatorade want to put it in a product designed for people like me who are into sports and health?” Her petition yielded more than 200,000 signatures.
A spokeswoman for Gatorade said that the company, PepsiCo, had been testing alternatives to the chemical for about a year “due to customer feedback” but that the company didn’t find a health and safety risk with brominated vegetable oil. Nonetheless, PepsiCo will replace brominated vegetable oil with sucrose acetate isobutyrate, an emulsifier that is “generally recognized as safe.” Consumers will find the new ingredient in Gatorade over the next few months as current supplies sell out and are replaced.
Pleased with the results of her efforts, Sarah is contemplating asking the US Food and Drug Administration to ban the ingredient altogether. It is banned in Japan and the European Union. About 10 percent of the drinks sold in the US contain brominated vegetable oil, including Pepsi’s Mountain Dew and diet Mountain Dew as well as products made by Coca Cola and the Snapple Group.