Coca-Cola withdraws brominated vegetable oil from Powerade drinks

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 May, 2014, 8:56pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 May, 2014, 8:56pm


Coca-Cola is dropping a controversial ingredient from its Powerade sports drink, after a similar move by PepsiCo's Gatorade last year.

The ingredient, brominated vegetable oil (BVO), had been the target of a petition by a Mississippi teenager, who questioned why it was being used in a drink marketed toward health-conscious athletes. The petition noted that the ingredient was linked to a flame retardant and not approved for use in foods in Japan or the European Union.

In response to customer feedback, PepsiCo said last year that it would drop the ingredient from Gatorade. At the time, Coca-Cola declined to say whether it would remove the ingredient from the two flavours of Powerade that contained it.

But this week, bottles of Powerade in fruit punch and strawberry lemonade flavours being sold in the Detroit, Michigan; Omaha, Nebraska, New York and Washington areas no longer listed the ingredient. Some bottles still list it, however, suggesting Coca-Cola may have started phasing it out recently.

A representative for the Atlanta-based company confirmed on Sunday that its Powerade brands were "BVO-free", but no details were immediately available on when the change would be complete or how the drinks were reformulated.

Powerade's website still lists BVO as an ingredient for its fruit punch and strawberry lemonade flavours.

The United States food and drug administration said BVO was used as a stabiliser for flavouring oils in fruit-flavoured drinks. Coca-Cola has said in the past that it used it to "improve stability and prevent certain ingredients from separating".

The decision by Coca-Cola to remove BVO from Powerade was just the latest evidence that food makers were coming under pressure for the ingredients they used. While companies stand by the safety of their products, some are making changes in response to the movement toward foods that people believe are natural.

Earlier this year, for instance, Subway said it would remove an ingredient dubbed the "yoga mat chemical" from its breads. The ingredient, azodicarbonamide, is approved for use in the US and can be found in a wide variety of breads. The petitioner, Vani Hari of said she targeted Subway because of its image for serving healthy food.

Likewise, BVO can also be found in several other drinks.

But the Mississippi teenager, Sarah Kavanagh, said she targeted Gatorade and Powerade in petitions because they were designed for athletes, who were likely to be more concerned about what they were putting into their bodies. Her Powerade petition had more than 59,000 online supporters while the Gatorade one had more than 200,000.