The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday proposed banning a food additive found in some popular fruity sports drinks and sodas, citing negative health effects.
The agency concluded that the intended use of brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, in food is no longer considered safe after the results of studies conducted with the National Institutes of Health found the potential for adverse health effects in humans.
The FDA had allowed for the use of BVO in small amounts to keep the citrus flavoring from separating and floating to the top of some beverages. It contains bromine, an element found in flame retardants.
Once used in drinks like Gatorade and Mountain Dew, the additive has been slowly phased out due to its link to potential health risks, including damage to the liver, heart and brain, NBC News reported.
The FDA said in a press release that it determined BVO was no longer generally recognized as safe in 1970 and began overseeing its use under its food additive regulations. Over the years, many beverage makers reformulated their products to replace BVO with an alternative ingredient, and today, few beverages in the U.S. contain the additive.
Although many large beverage brands, including Coca-Cola and Pepsi, have already stopped using the ingredient in their products, it can still be found in smaller grocery store brands and some popular regional beverages, like Sun Drop citrus-flavored soda, per NBC.
On Thursday, the FDA said it concluded that brominated vegetable oil was no longer safe to use after studies in rodents found that the ingredient is toxic to the thyroid, a gland that plays a key role in regulating blood pressure, heart rate and metabolism, per NBC. Previous studies have also shown that it could potentially be harmful to the liver and heart and cause neurological problems.
“Based on these data and remaining unresolved safety questions, the FDA can no longer conclude that the use of BVO in food is safe,” the agency said in a release.
Last month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law prohibiting the manufacture and sale of four chemicals that may be in as many as 12,000 food products, including brominated vegetable oil. California is the first to prohibit chemicals the FDA still allows.
If the FDA ban on BVO is approved, the agency said it will give beverage makers at least one year to reformulate or relabel their products before enforcing the new rule.