Have you ever tasted a soft drink so good you thought it should be illegal? In some parts of the world, ingredients used in beverages available across the United States are outlawed — but not because they’re dangerously delicious.
Drinks including Mountain Dew, Gatorade, Powerade and Squirt are all commonly available at restaurants and convenience stores across the US. If you’re overseas and thirsty for one of many products made by PepsiCo, Cocoa-Cola or the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, you might get something entirely different. Brominated vegetable oil, an ingredient used by those manufacturers in an array of beverages, is banned in locales like Europe and Japan.
The New York Times reports that around 10 percent of drinks sold in the US contain brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, but elsewhere things are a bit different. Beverages overseas are stripped of the chemical, used usually to help distribute flavor, with foreign health officials citing some serious medical concerns as the reason for the ban.
Sarah Kavanagh, a teenager from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, only became aware of BVOs recently while examining a bottle of Gatorade. A quick Web search had her rethinking what she drinks, though.
“I knew it probably wasn’t from an animal because it had vegetable in the name, but I still wanted to know what it was, so I Googled it,” she tells the Times. “A page popped up with a long list of possible side effects, including neurological disorders and altered thyroid hormones. I didn’t expect that.”
Most Americans are in the same boat, but the substance is still completely legal in the US.
“BVO is banned other places in the world, so these companies already have a replacement for it,” Kavanagh tells the Times. “I don’t see why they don’t just make the switch.” According to the paper, companies say the switch would simply cost all too much.
After becoming aware of the compound, she started a campaign on Change.org to help raise awareness of BVO. Since that petition was launched in November, she has collected over 205,000 signatures from others urging a federal ban on BVOs.
“I was shocked that they’d put their consumers at risk like that and that the FDA would allow something like that to be put in products,” she tells the Chicago Tribune.