FDA Considers Banning Century-Old Food Additive Due to Health Concerns

by Ella

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is contemplating a ban on brominated vegetable oil (BVO), a food additive that has been in use for over a century. This potential action comes on the heels of California’s recent prohibition of BVO due to concerns about its impact on human health.

The FDA announced on Thursday that it is reevaluating its approval of BVO in beverages, prompted by a recent study involving rats, which suggested that the ingredient might be detrimental to thyroid health.


BVO, a food additive first introduced in the 1920s, has been used in some sports drinks and sodas to prevent the separation and floating of citrus flavoring. Notably, major soda manufacturers had already phased out BVO from their products several years ago.


The FDA stated, “The proposed action is an example of how the agency monitors emerging evidence and, as needed, conducts scientific research to investigate safety-related questions and takes regulatory action when the science does not support the continued safe use of additives in foods.”


Although BVO was removed from the FDA’s generally recognized as safe list in the late 1960s, the agency did not ban it, citing insufficient evidence. Instead, the acceptable levels of BVO in beverages were limited to 15 parts per million.


Concerns were initially raised about its impact on the heart in 1970 but were later considered “resolved” by the FDA. However, a 1976 study that examined the consumption of brominated sesame and soybean oils by pigs found damage to their hearts, livers, kidneys, and testicles.

Between 2016 and 2020, the FDA developed more precise methods for detecting BVO levels in soft drinks and fat quantities in vegetable oils. A 2022 study revealed thyroid damage in rats linked to BVO, prompting the FDA’s proposal to ban the additive.

Europe and Japan had previously prohibited BVO in drinks, and California recently approved a ban set to take effect in 2027.

“We recognize that California recently took steps to ban the use of four food ingredients, including BVO, in that state,” the FDA stated. “The agency is continuously reviewing and reassessing the safety of a variety of chemicals in food to ensure the science and the law support their safe use in food, including all four ingredients that are part of the recent California law.”

Brian Ronholm, the director of food policy at Consumer Reports, welcomed the FDA’s reconsideration, stating, “Toxic additives like BVO that have been shown to pose toxic risks to the thyroid and other chronic health problems should not be allowed in our food.”

Scott Faber, the senior vice president for government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, pointed out that the FDA has been aware of BVO’s harmful effects on human health for decades. Some states and major beverage companies have already taken action to remove BVO from their products.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest hailed the decision as a “big win,” expressing their satisfaction with the FDA’s responsiveness to mounting concerns about BVO’s safety.



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