Petition Claims Ingredient In Gatorade Is A Flame Retardant, Unsafe For Consumption

Gatorade is under fire from a new consumer petition claiming that the company’s beverage contains an unhealthy ingredient, brominated vegetable oil (or BVO), that was developed as a flame retardant. Opponents of the emulsifier, which is used to suspend citric oils in beverages, says it poses health risks like reduced fertility and early-onset puberty. Gatorade says the levels of BVO it uses are totally safe.

The Change.org petition (via the Chicago Tribune) had 183,871 signatures as this story was being typed. The petition was started by a 15-year-old student who happened to Google the ingredient and found that it had been banned in the European Union, and was discussed as unhealthy in various scientific articles.

She writes in the petition’s introduction:

According to Scientific American, BVO has been patented as a flame retardant and is found in some beverages including some flavors of Gatorade. It is “under intense scrutiny because research has shown that they are building up in people’s bodies, including breast milk, around the world.” The same article also mentions that there are “links to impaired neurological development, reduced fertility, early onset of puberty and altered thyroid hormones.”

PepsiCo, which owns Gatorade, has been using the stuff “on an interim basis” as of February 2012. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration lists BVO as an ingredient that is safe to use in fruity beverages but only in “amounts not to exceed five parts per million.”

The company says in a statement that its use of BVO is all on the up-and-up:

“We take consumer safety and product integrity seriously, and we can assure you that Gatorade is safe. As standard practice we constantly evaluate our formulas and ingredients to ensure they comply with federal regulations and meet the high quality standards our consumers and athletes expect.”

One professor of the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine told the Chicago Tribune that BVO hasn’t always been deemed so safe, and more research should be done on the substance.

“Bromine does bind to fat in the body and stay there, it is an endocrine disruptor, and the fact is many people drink excessive amounts of soda,” the assistant professor said. “So the bromine ingestion is far higher than the ‘safe’ dose contained in one drink.”

Other experts warn that while one kind of brominated vegetable oil could be used as a flame retardant, it could be a wholly different type that’s used in drinks.

First there were claims of gloppy mold in vitaminwater, and now this… Sports drinks aren’t having a very good month, it seems.

Gatorade: Don’t put flame retardant chemicals in sports drinks! [Change.org]
Gatorade ingredient under scrutiny [Chicago Tribune]