Nasty or neutral? Brominated vegetable oil, a long-used drink additive tucked into the ingredients list of about 10% of the drinks sold in America, finds itself the subject of fresh debate. It's used in Mountain Dew, Gatorade, and other citrus drinks in order to distribute that lemon/lime/orange flavor evenly, and it has a stamp of approval from the feds. But it's been banned in the EU and Japan, and a 15-year-old girl from Mississippi has started a Change.org petition in an attempt to get PepsiCo to stop using it.
The ingredient is comprised in part of bromine, which is found in brominated flame retardants, which are used to keep couches from catching on fire. And Sarah Kavanagh's Google search of the yummy-sounding additive turned up "a long list of possible side effects, including neurological disorders and altered thyroid hormones," she explains. The New York Times reports that the battle over the ingredient, used in food since the 1930s, is three decades old, making Kavanagh’s campaign "most likely ... quixotic." The FDA hasn't done studies on BVO since the late '70s, and the testing of it in general "is abysmal," says the director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. (Read more chemicals stories.)