Rating: Avoid

Emulsifier, clouding agent: soft drinks.

BVO keeps flavor oils in suspension, giving a cloudy appearance to citrus-flavored soft drinks such as Mountain Dew and Fanta Orange. After some public pressure, PepsiCo agreed in 2013 to remove BVO from Gatorade, then in 2014 Coca-Cola and PepsiCo announced they would remove BVO from all their beverages, but as of mid-2016, BVO is still in at least one PepsiCo product, Mountain Dew.

Safety questions have been hanging over BVO since 1970, when the FDA removed BVO from its “Generally Rec­ognized as Safe” list. In 1970, FDA permitted its use only on an “interim” basis pending additional study—one of only four such interim-allowed additives. Decades later, BVO is still poorly tested and remains on the interim list. Health concerns start with the finding that eating BVO leaves residues in body fat and the fat in brain, liver, and other organs. Animal studies indicate that BVO is transferred from mother’s milk to the nursing infant and also can cause heart lesions, fatty changes in the liver, and impaired growth and behavioral development. Those studies suggest that BVO might be harmful to people who drink large amounts of soft drinks that contain BVO. Indeed, doctors have identified bromine toxicity in two people who drank extremely large amounts of such sodas. Sensitive, modern studies are urgently needed to better understand the risk, especially at the lower levels typically consumed by large numbers of children. Meanwhile, BVO should not be used (it is not permitted in Europe).