News Feature | May 6, 2014

Coca-Cola Says "No" To BVO

Sam Lewis

By Sam Lewis, associate editor
Follow Me On Twitter @SamIAmOnFood

Coca-Cola No BVO

After hearing consumer concerns, the beverage maker is removing a controversial ingredient added to some of the company’s citrus-flavored products

Coca-Cola announced on Monday, May 5 it will be replacing brominated vegetable oil (BVO), containing bromine — an element found in flame retardants — from its products that include it by the end of 2014.

“Brominated vegetable oil is used in some of our beverages to improve the stability of our products, preventing certain ingredients from separating,” says Coca-Cola.  “All our beverages, including those with BVO, are safe and have always been — and comply with all regulations in the countries where they are sold.” The company did not list its products containing BVO, but a few include Fresca, select varieties of Fanta, and some of Coca-Cola’s fountain beverages. Japan and the European Union both ban BVO from food and beverages. Coca-Cola says the elimination of BVO from its products will bring greater consistency to its business.

The beverage maker plans to replace BVO with sucrose acetate isobutyrate, commonly used in beverage production, and glycerol ester of rosin, found in chewing gum. This move closely mimics one of Coca-Cola’s fiercest competitors, PepsiCo. In Jan 2013, PepsiCo announced it would discontinue use of BVO in Gatorade after a 2012 petition on Change.org from teenager Sarah Kavanagh garnered nearly 200,000 signatures. While Gatorade now contains sucrose acetate isobutyrate rather than BVO, some of PepsiCo’s beverage products, such as Mountain Dew and Amp Energy, still contain it. According to PepsiCo, “We removed BVO from Gatorade in 2013 in response to our consumers, and since that time we have been actively working to remove it from the rest of our product portfolio.”

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After seeing her successful petition with PepsiCo, Kavanagh pleaded to Coca-Cola to remove BVO from Powerade. Kavanagh’s second petition on Change.org asking a major beverage maker to change its ways gathered around 60,000 signatures. Several other petitions on the site also asked Coca-Cola to remove the ingredient. “Not only has Coca-Cola, which is such a huge company, listened to what me and 60,000 other people had to say about Powerade, it’s removing brominated vegetable oil from all its products. I think that shows that such a big company does care about what consumers think,” says Kavanagh in a phone interview with the New York Times. Additionally, Kavanagh hopes PepsiCo can match Coca-Cola’s promise to remove BVO across its entire family of beverages containing it.