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US: Coca-Cola drops Powerade ingredient linked to flame retardants

A spokesperson for the company said its Powerade drinks were now free of the ingredient that has been linked to a flame retardant, reports the Associated Press.

The FDA says BVO is used as a stabiliser for flavouring oils in fruit-flavoured drinks. Coca-Cola has said in the past that it uses the ingredient to “improve stability and prevent certain ingredients from separating”.

Coca-Cola has stressed the move to remove BVO is not an issue of safety. “All of our beverages, including those with BVO, are safe and always have been – and comply with all regulations in the countries where they are sold,” said a company statement. “The safety and quality of our products is our highest priority.”

Coca-Cola said that it was removing the ingredient from all its drinks to be consistent with the ingredients it uses around the world. Coca-Cola uses BVO in some flavours of Fanta, Fresca and citrus-flavoured fountain drinks. The company said BVO should be phased out in the US by the end of the year.

Coca-Cola said it would instead use sucrose acetate isobutyrate, which, it noted, had been used in drinks for more than 14 years, and glycerol ester of rosin, which it said was commonly found in chewing gum and drinks.

BVO has already been dropped by PepsiCo from its Gatorade products following public scrutiny and a petition, instigated largely by a Mississippi teenager, Sarah Kavanagh, on grounds that it is potentially dangerous and not approved for use in the EU or Japan.

These decision by Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are latest evidence that food makers are coming under pressure for the ingredients they use. While companies stand by the safety of their products, some are making changes in response to the movement toward foods that people believe are more “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 by the FDA 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.

“Consumers are coming together quickly and efficiently to influence the world’s biggest beverage companies in an unprecedented manner,” said Pulin Modi, senior campaign manager for

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 are designed for athletes, who are probably more concerned about what they are putting into their bodies.

As Americans cut back on soda, sports drinks have become more important for Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.

Additional reading:

Brominated battle: Soda chemical has cloudy health history

Some scientists now urge a reassessment of “BVO” because they wonder whether it has some of the same risks as brominated flame retardants…