A toxic brominated flame retardant used in 10 percent of soda products is largely a North American problem, since the substance has already been banned in Europe and Japan, according to a recent report by Environmental Health News. Scientists originally created brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, for use as a flame retardant in plastics, but the food industry has been adding the compound to certain sodas, sports drinks, and juices for decades to keep the artificial flavoring from separating and floating to the top of the can, bottle, or glass.
In the 70s, the Food and Drug Administration set a "safe limit" for BVO in food products, although some critics say that decision was made on industry-supplied data that is now outdated. Decades ago, rodent studies suggested BVO caused heart damage.
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Today, people who have gone on extreme soda binges have reported symptoms in line with bromine poisoning—skin lesions, memory loss, and nerve disorders. BVO is also in Fanta Orange, Gatorade Thirst Quencher Orange, Powerade Strawberry Lemonade, and Sunkist Pineapple, among other drinks. The FDA requires that brominated vegetable oil (BVO) is labeled, but since many sodas, sports drinks, and even juices are loaded with harmful food dyes, food additives, and sugar, it's probably best to look for healthier, less processed alternatives.