The recent announcement by PepsiCo to remove the brominated vegetable oil additive from its products is a step in the right direction in terms of food safety. While extensive research has not yet been carried out on the BVOs, the number of customer complaints and the little research that has already been carried out on the ingredient is definitely enough to regard this additive as one that potentially puts the consumer at a health risk. This additive was removed from GRAS (generally recognized as safe) in 1970 and one wonders what took the company so long to react.
Brominated vegetable oil is oil to which bromine has been added to increase its weight and density. Manufacturers prefer it since it does not float when added to other products. Thus far, it has been used as a stabilizer in the manufacture of flavored drinks. A study in Canada showed the increased risk of cardiotoxicity associated with the BVO’s actually contributed to their removal from the GRAS list. Studies have also linked bromine to thyroid problems as it displaces iodine, which is vital in the proper functioning of the thyroid.
In addition, studies dating as far back as 1975 or earlier linked the use of sedatives that contained bromine to such side effects as memory loss, violent tendencies, slurred speech and enlarged pupils, among others. A case was reported of a man who suffered loss of coordination in his muscles and tremors after daily consuming about three liters of BVO-containing cola. Animal testing found that consumption of the BVOs was shown to cause heart damage, as well as damage to the kidneys. Moreover, there were reported cases of increased fat deposits in the tested organs.
Perhaps most will not consume as much cola as the man stated above, but one should also be careful of the cumulative effects of the BVOs if consumed over a long period of time.