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Food Safety Double Standards: Banned in Europe, Available in America

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Last Updated on May 20, 2023 by Max

Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO): The Hidden Ingredient in Your Sports Drink

Brominated Vegetable Oil, or BVO, is an ingredient that might sound innocuous, but its presence in certain beverages could potentially pose health risks. BVO is primarily used in some citrus-flavored soft drinks and sports drinks in the U.S. to keep flavor oils in suspension, providing a uniform taste (U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 2018).

However, the use of BVO is subject to controversy. The ingredient is under scrutiny due to its bromine component, a heavy element associated with both accumulation in human tissue and potential neurological effects (U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 2018). One study indicated that excessive consumption of drinks containing BVO could lead to bromism, a condition characterized by headaches, fatigue, ataxia, and even memory loss (Horowitz, B.Z., 1997).

Moreover, studies in mice have shown that bromine could accumulate in fatty tissues (Kurokawa, Y., et al., 1976). Although direct studies in humans are lacking, these animal studies have raised concerns about the possible effects of long-term exposure to brominated compounds, including potential changes in thyroid hormones and neurological development (U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 2018).

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has taken note of these potential health risks, banning the use of BVO in food and drinks within the EU (European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), 2011). However, in the U.S., the FDA currently permits BVO as a food additive in limited quantities (U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 2018).

The BVO story underscores the complex balancing act that food regulators must perform – weighing potential health risks against the benefits of food additives. While the U.S. has opted for a more laissez-faire approach, the EU has chosen a path of precaution.

As we continue our journey through the labyrinth of food safety standards, we invite you to ponder and share your thoughts. How do you feel about the presence of such ingredients in your beverages? Do you believe more should be done to restrict potentially harmful additives?


  • Horowitz, B.Z. (1997). Bromism from excessive cola consumption. Journal of Toxicology: Clinical Toxicology, 35(3), 315-320. Kurokawa, Y., et al. (1976).
  • Toxicity and carcinogenicity of potassium bromate–a new renal carcinogen. Environmental Health Perspectives, 69, 309-335. European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). (2011).
  • Use of the EFSA Comprehensive European Food Consumption Database in Exposure Assessment. EFSA Journal, 9(3), 2097.
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2018). Code of Federal Regulations Title 21, Volume 3, Section 180.30 Brominated vegetable oil. Washington, D.C.: FDA.
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