Brominated vegetable oil sounds harmless enough, and BVO has been used a flavor-enhancing and stabilizing ingredient in a number of popular fruit-flavored beverages for many years. However, BVO has come under increasing criticism from health authorities over the last few years and its use in food products is banned in Japan and the European Union.

Pepsi Coca-cola BVO

BVO’s main function is to prevent ingredients in beverages from separating during storage. Although the Food and Drug Administration removed BVO from its “Generally Recognized as Safe” list of food ingredients back in 1970, current regulations allow beverage companies to use BVO in drinks at up to 15 parts per million.

Both Coke and Pepsi dropping BVO

PepsiCo, Inc. (NYSE:PEP) had already announced that it was removing BVO from several of its products, and The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO) released a statement on Monday, May 5th, announcing that it was planning to remove brominated vegetable oil from all its U.S. drinks that contained it by the end of this year. Coca-Cola will use either FDA-approved sucrose acetate isobutyrate or glycerol ester of rosin to replace BVO.

Outcry from health activist organizations

According to medical authorities, the health concerns surrounding BVO stem from the bromide in the compound, which is also commonly used in brominated flame retardants.

BVO has received a great of negative commentary on a variety of social media and online forums, including Change.org, where Sarah Kavanagh, a high schooler from Hattiesburg, created a petition that went viral and received tens of thousands of signatures.

Statement from Coca Cola

“Glycerol ester of rosin is commonly found in chewing gum and beverages, and SAIB has been used in beverages for over 14 years,” The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO) spokesman Josh Gold said in the statement. “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. The safety and quality of our products is our highest priority.”

Statement from Pepsi

Pepsi also released a statement regarding the company’s shift away from BVO. “We regularly evaluate our formulas and ingredients to ensure they comply with all regulations and meet the high quality standards our consumers expect,” PepsiCo, Inc. (NYSE:PEP) spokesperson Jeff Dahncke said in a statement. “We removed BVO from Gatorade in 2013 in response to our consumers and since that time we have been actively working to remove it from the rest of our product portfolio.”