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Consumer Reports supports FDA’s proposed ban of brominated vegetable oil (BVO) in food

BVO has been linked to thyroid problems and other serious health conditions 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Consumer Reports lent its support today to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s proposed ban on brominated vegetable oil in food in a comment letter sent to the agency. BVO is used as a flavoring oil stabilizer and emulsifier in citrus beverages, and has been linked to thyroid problems and other serious health problems.

“The evidence is clear that brominated vegetable oil in sodas and other beverages poses an unacceptable risk to our health and should be banned,” said Brian Ronholm, director of food policy at Consumer Reports. “The FDA’s own studies have conclusively shown that BVO poses toxic risks to the thyroid and other chronic health problems.”

BVO has been used in sodas since the 1920s. In 1958, when the Food Additive Amendment was added to the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act of 1938, BVO was granted generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status due to its long history of use in food. The 1958 amendment was in response to growing concerns about the safety of food additives. BVO’s GRAS status allowed it to be used at levels up to 150 ppm in citrus-flavored beverages.

In January 1970, FDA revoked BVO’s GRAS status over concerns of thyroid toxicity, bioaccumulation of bromine in various tissues, developmental neurotoxicity, and reproductive toxicity. In response, the industry petitioned FDA to allow continued use of BVO, but at one-tenth the dose previously allowed (e.g. 15 ppm). While not fully convinced about BVO’s safety, the FDA permitted it to be used on an “interim basis” for three years, while long term toxicity studies were done. However, in 1974, the FDA changed the “interim basis” to “indefinite period.”

Recent studies conducted by the FDA along with other federal agencies have concluded that BVO is linked to thyroid toxicity and bioaccumulation in tissues in rats at low doses. Following the publication of these studies, the FDA noted, “we no longer conclude that there is a reasonable certainty of no harm from the use of BVO as a stabilizer for flavoring oils in fruit-flavored beverages.”

A complete copy of CR’s comment letter to the FDA on its proposed ban of BVO in food can be found here.