FDA moves to ban drink additive linked to thyroid issues, memory loss

Nov. 2 (UPI) -- The FDA has proposed a measure that would ban the use of brominated vegetable oil in the United States in response to evidence revealing the potential for adverse health effects in humans.

The measure, proposed Thursday, would effectively revoke the current regulation that allows for the chemical to be used.


Vegetable oil modified with bromine has been authorized by the FDA in small quantities to prevent the separation of citrus flavoring in select beverages. However, recent FDA findings have led to a fundamental shift in its safety classification.

Findings reveal the accumulation of bromine has adverse impact on the thyroid, a crucial gland responsible for producing hormones that exert significant control over blood pressure, body temperature, metabolism and the body's response to other hormones.

Brominated vegetable oil has also been associated with skin and mucous membrane irritation, fatigue, loss of muscle coordination and memory problems.

As a result of these findings, the FDA now deems the continued use of BVO in food as unsafe, a departure from its prior designation as "Generally Recognized as Safe" (GRAS) in the 1970s.

"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," said the FDA in a statement.


Numerous beverage manufacturers have already revamped their product formulations, opting for alternative ingredients to replace BVO. A prominent example is PepsiCo's removal of this additive from its citrus-flavored Gatorade in 2013 due to consumers having a 'negative perception' of the product.

The state of California has also taken steps to ban the use of BVO and three other food ingredients within its borders; red dye No. 3, potassium bromate and propylparaben

The FDA says it continues to assess the safety of various chemicals in food to align with the latest scientific knowledge and legal requirements, including the recent California law, and that it's in the process of reviewing the regulations pertaining to the use of FD&C Red No. 3.

The agency says a decision regarding the chemical is forthcoming.

To streamline the process of evaluating chemicals in the food supply moving forward, the agency says it's in the process of creating an "Office of Food Chemical Safety, Dietary Supplements, and Innovation" with the goal of creating a more efficient mechanism for evaluating such additives in the future.

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