Kaylyn Boccia, Staff Writer
A 15-year-old girl recently brought a chemical called brominated vegetable oil to the media’s attention. After finding this ingredient on her orange Gatorade label, Sarah Kavanagh decided to Google it. She found that brominated vegetable oil is a flame retardant chemical used in some drinks to keep the flavors from separating. Brominated vegetable oil has already been banned in Japan and the European Union. After this discovery, Kavanagh started an online petition against the use of this chemical in Gatorade. In this petition she addressed Gatorade, calling them out on making their products with potentially a very dangerous chemical.
Kavanagh’s petition received an overwhelmingly high interest with over 200,000 signatures. All the people on the petition agreed that brominated vegetable oil is potentially harmful and they share the hope that it will be removed from Gatorade. The petition was able to bring this issue to light for many people who were unaware of the presence of this ingredient and its harm. Brominated vegetable oil has been potentially linked to certain neurological health problems and thyroid changes.
According to the Scientific American, brominated vegetable oil is “under intense scrutiny because research has shown that they are building up in people’s bodies, including breast milk, around the world.” As well as, “links to impaired neurological development, reduced fertility, early onset of puberty and altered thyroid hormones.” Interestingly, the orange Gatorade is the only flavor that uses this chemical, so why is it used at all, especially with all these concerns, in a sports/health drink?
To Kavanagh’s surprise, because of such support, she was successful. Pepsi Cola has announced that following the petition, they will stop using this ingredient in their product. Pepsi will instead replace it with a substitute called sucrose acetate isobutyrate. In a post by Kavanagh after this victory, she expressed her happiness and surprise with the results. Since this is such a large company, she was not sure if her petition would make a difference. Kavanagh also states her love for their products and how surprised she was to see a drink that is promoted for healthy living, had such a dangerous chemical in it. According to the Huffington Post, “The ingredient is not banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and PepsiCo’s decision wasn’t the result of any health or safety concerns. It was specifically a response to concerns expressed by Gatorade customers.”
Molly Carter, a spokesperson for Pepsi Cola, claims that the removal of this chemical has been in the works for years and that it was not a direct reaction to Kavanagh’s petition. If this claim is true, then perhaps Kavanah’s petition, with the possibility of losing costumers, prompted Pepsi Cola to make this move more quickly. With this modification, many consumers who stopped drinking their product will be able to enjoy it again, without consuming this flame retardant chemical.