FDA proposes ban on the use of BVO in foods in the US

A FDA propõe proibição do uso de BVO em alimentos nos EUA
Image: Adobe Stock

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed implementing a national ban on the use of brominated vegetable oil (BVO) as a food additive, as reported by CNN.

The FDA's proposal, following existing bans in Europe and Japan, was a response to the ban introduced in California – the first US state to ban the additive – in October under the California Food Safety Act, as mentioned in the November 3 report.

BVO is a vegetable oil with added bromine, used in small amounts to prevent the citrus aroma from floating to the top in some soft drinks.

Associated with health risks including damage to the nervous system, headaches, irritation of the skin and mucous membranes, fatigue, and loss of muscle coordination and memory, according to a November 2 report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) – a nonprofit research and advocacy group that focuses on consumer health, toxic chemicals and pollutants. The ingredient can also accumulate in the body over time.

“The agency concluded that the intended use of BVO in foods is no longer considered safe. Results from studies in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health have uncovered the potential for adverse health effects in humans,” James Jones, FDA deputy commissioner for human foods, said in a statement.

According to the EWG's Eat Well Guide, several products, particularly soft drinks, may include BVO as an ingredient.

The Decline of BVO in U.S. Products and Companies’ Commitment to Alternative Ingredients

The low number of products in the US that contain BVO is due to previous restrictions introduced by the FDA, as mentioned in the report.

Jones stated that in 1970, the FDA removed BVO from the list of “Generally Recognized as Safe” ingredients. The agency began overseeing their use under food additive regulations. Over the years, many manufacturers have reformulated their drinks in the US, replacing BVO with alternative ingredients. Currently, few drinks in the country contain BVO.

Coca-Cola, for example, announced that it had stopped using BVO in its drinks in 2014, as reported by The Guardian at the time.

Additionally, a 2012 petition with more than 200,000 signatures raised health concerns about the additive, according to the EWG report.

Many companies have eliminated BVO from consumer products due to market pressure, EWG said.

However, Scott Faber, EWG's senior vice president of government affairs, said BVO can still be found on the market, particularly in unbranded products, including store brand products and lesser-known brands that are sometimes sold regionally.

“Today’s announcement will ensure everyone has access to products that do not contain BVO,” Faber added.

FDA Considers Ban on Food Additives After Animal Studies Reveal Harmful Health Effects

The studies that supported the FDA's decision were carried out on animals. The negative health effects were close to actual human exposure, according to a Nov. 2 statement on the agency's website.

The results revealed bioaccumulation of bromine and toxic effects on the thyroid. The thyroid produces hormones crucial for regulating blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, metabolism and the body's hormonal response.

FDA's Jones highlighted the proposed ban as an example of continued monitoring of emerging evidence. The agency conducts scientific research to investigate safety issues and takes regulatory action when science does not support the safe use of food additives.

CNN reported that the proposed ban was accepting comments until January 17. A review process would result in a final decision.

Source: Oils & Fats International

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