Another Deadly Chemical in Our Food Supply

By Michael A. Smith, MD

Brominated vegetable oil (BVO) is vegetable oil with bromine added to it. Brominated vegetable oil is used as an emulsifier in citrus-flavored soft drinks to help the flavors stay suspended in the drink and to produce a cloudy appearance.

Just look at Mountain Dew, for example. The hazy appearance within its very unnatural fluorescent color comes from BVO.

Patented by chemical companies as a flame retardant, and banned in food throughout Europe and Japan, BVO has been added to soft drinks for decades in North America. Now, some scientists have a renewed interest in this little-known ingredient.

Is BVO Safe?

Overall, this is probably not a safe additive. Even the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations imposes restrictions on the use of BVO in the United States. Because there are questions about its safety, an obvious restriction is to limit the amount of BVO in soft drinks. The FDA limits the use of BVO to 15 parts per million in fruit-flavored beverages.

The FDA labels BVO as an “interim food additive” which is “a food-use substance whose safety has been called into question.”1 The FDA has classified only four substances as interim food additives: BVO, acrylonitrile, mannitol, and saccharin.

The European Union, however, isn’t messing around with an interim labeling. They think it’s dangerous and they’ve excluded it from the current EU-approved additives list.2

BVO Potential Health Problems

Ingesting bromine increases its concentration in your body. As it builds up, it begins to compete with iodine and causes relative iodine deficiency. The result is a condition sometimes referred to as “Brominated Thyroid.” In a sense, this is a type of thyroid goiter, although the effects are more subtle than what you will see with a true iodine deficiency.3

This condition was originally seen in animal studies testing flame retardants. After the studies, the animals involved often developed low thyroid secondary to bromine leaching into their bloodstreams.

Additionally, bromine is considered a potential carcinogen and causes a number of problems such as headaches, fatigue, and possibly even heart and kidney issues. An interesting condition is called Bromoderma. These are painful skin sores that were first seen in young adult gamers who would consume large amounts of citrus-flavored drinks because of their higher caffeine content.4

Bromoderma normally occurs in people with bromine or bromide sensitivities. However, it can occur with ingestion of large amounts of bromine from certain soft-drinks.5

The FDA Says A Little BVO is Safe

As mentioned above, the FDA allows 15 parts per million of BVO in fruit-flavored beverages. This level was determined in 1977 by reports from a soda-industry group. But some scientists say that limit is based on data that is thin and several decades old.

Considering that sodas are a substantial source of calories for teenagers, scientists insist BVO needs further investigation.

What do you think? Is this another dangerous chemical that the FDA has approved in order to protect a billion-dollar industry?

Well, let’s not be too hard on the FDA. We understand that they’re really busy going after walnut farmers for marketing their all-natural products as heart-healthy.


  1. Fed. Reg. 25,705 (1972) (codified as amended at 21 C.F.R. pt. 180 (1996)); 37 Fed. Reg. 6207, 6208 (1972)
  3. J Clin Pathol. 1993 May; 46(5): 456–458.
  4. James, William; Berger, Timothy; Elston, Dirk (2005). Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. (10th ed.). Saunders. ISBN 0-7216-2921-0.
  5. New England Journal of Medicine 348 (19): 1932–34. doi:10.1056/NEJM200305083481921. PMID 12736294.


Anonymous said...

It doesn't sound safe to me. If you have to question it's safe consumption because our children consume so much of it,then it's not really "safe". Why assume risk that can be avoided? The idiocracy continues unabated in this country in pursuit of the all mighty dollar at the expense of our people. It's a shame.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone ask why it's in there anyway----just to make us sick, or is there another purpose for BVO to be included in the recipe??? I'm sure it doesn't taste good

Anonymous said...

When people get sick, it makes another $$$ for pharmacy's....

Briana Southward said...

I agree that we should be staying away from this chemical and from soda in general. I do find your last comment about the walnut farmers ironic. It seems that the FDA needs to get its priorities straight. There are so many more issues they should be spending their time on instead of walnut farmers. It seems they like to focus on the areas that don't have strong lobbyists. It makes one wonder if consumer safety is driving decisions or if these important decisions are being driven by the dollar signs in the eyes of executives at these food processing companies.

Anonymous said...

well written article

Ade said...

If there's any doubt, it ought not to be in there.

Anonymous said...

I stopped swimming when I found out our YMCA puts Bromine in the water. I certainly wouldn't drink the stuff.

LifeExtension said...

Anonymous - We hear you!

Post a Comment

All Contents Copyright ©2021 Life Extension® All rights reserved.
Privacy Notice | Terms of Use
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
The information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. You should not use the information on this site for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem or for prescription of any medication or other treatment. You should consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise or supplementation program, before taking any medication, or if you have or suspect you might have a health problem. You should not stop taking any medication without first consulting your physician.