Health

Coke to drop controversial ingredient entirely

NEW YORK (AP) — Coca-Cola says it will drop a controversial ingredient from all its drinks that contain it, not just Powerade.

The Atlanta-based company says brominated vegetable oil is still being used in some flavors of Fanta and Fresca, as well as several citrus-flavored fountain drinks. The change will apply to its drinks globally, meaning Canada and Latin America are phasing out the ingredient as well.

A spokesman for Coca-Cola, Josh Gold, noted that the ingredient is not used in many countries. Brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, had been the target of petitions on Change.org by a Mississippi teenager, Sarah Kavanagh, who wanted it out of Gatorade and Powerade. The Food and Drug Administration says the ingredient is used as a stabilizer for flavoring oils in fruit-flavored drinks. But Kavanagh's petition noted that it has been patented as a flame retardant and isn't approved for use in Japan or the European Union.

The Associated Press reported on Sunday that Coca-Cola is dropping BVO from Powerade, following a similar move by PepsiCo's Gatorade last year. On Monday, Coca-Cola said in a statement that all its drinks are safe and comply with regulations in the countries where they're sold. It noted that BVO is used to improve the stability of its drinks and prevent certain ingredients from separating.

In coming months, however, the company said it would phase out BVO in the U.S. by the end of the year to be consistent with the ingredients it uses around the world. It said it would instead use sucrose acetate isobutyrate, which Coca-Cola said has been used in drinks for more than 14 years, and glycerol ester of rosin, which it said is commonly found in chewing gum and drinks.

Even as companies stand by the safety of their products, several have changed their recipes as people increasingly look to eat foods they believe are natural. The trend toward natural foods has prompted some to steer clear of ingredients or chemicals that sound unfamiliar, even if they're approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration and have been used by manufacturers for years.

The ingredient is still used in drinks including PepsiCo's Mountain Dew and Amp, as well as Dr Pepper Snapple Group's Sun Drop and Squirt. Representatives for PepsiCo, based in Purchase, New York, did not respond to request for comment. A Dr Pepper spokesman said only that the company continually reviews its product formulations to ensure they meet customers' expectations.

Sarah Kavanagh, the 17-year-old Mississippi high school student who started the petitions asking for the removal of BVO from Powerade and Gatorade, said she was thrilled by the decision. ""Coca-Cola has gone above and beyond our expectations," she said. "It's really good to know that companies, especially big companies, are listening to consumers."

Follow Candice Choi at www.twitter.com/candicechoi

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