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PepsiCo to remove BVO from all drinks; Coca-Cola follows suit

Mississippi teenager Sarah Kavanaugh has proven, once again, that just one person can make a difference. Two years ago, Sarah started a petition on Change.org to get brominated vegetable oil or BVO out of Gatorade. And now PepsiCo, maker of Gatorade, has announced that it will stop using BVO in all of its drinks, according to USA Today on May 5.

PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are removing controversial BVO from all of their drinks
Image courtesy of tiverylucky / FreeDigitalPhotos

On a hot and humid Mississippi day two years ago, Sarah and her brother were about to have a refreshing bottle of Gatorade. Sarah, a dedicated vegetarian, took one last look to make sure it contained no animal products. It didn't, of course, but Sarah spied an ingredient that was strange to her and decided to check it out.

That ingredient was brominated vegetable oil and it's actually a chemical used to make things flame retardant. It also comes with risks and that's what really bothered Sarah, the mile-long list of possible side effects, including things like neurological disorders and thyroid problems.

Despite the adverse publicity, PepsiCo has always claimed that BVO was safe. It is actually used to evenly distribute flavors in fruit-flavored drinks. However, noting the pressure that their company and others are facing by a more-aware populace, the company is bowing to consumer demand to use a more "natural" product.

Coca-Cola has also jumped on the bandwagon and announced it will be substituting sucrose acetate isobutyrate and glycerol ester of rosin for BVO. Sucrose acetate isobutyrate has been used in drinks for 14 years or more. Glycerol ester of rosin is frequently found in chewing gum, as well as some drinks.

BVO is not used in a lot of other countries. A spokesman for Coca-Cola, Josh Gold, said it is also being phased out in Canada and Latin America.

And what does Mississippi teenager Sarah Kavanaugh think about this? Although she hasn’t made a formal statement, when she found out that BVO would be removed from PepsiCo’s drinks, the 17-year-old said, “It’s really good to know that companies, especially big companies, are listening to consumers.” You’re right, Sarah. It’s good. It’s very good.