U.S – The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed to revoke the use of brominated vegetable oil (BVO) in food due to growing safety concerns.

BVO, a vegetable oil modified with bromine, was authorized by the FDA in small amounts to prevent citrus flavoring from separating in some beverages.

However, recent studies conducted in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have raised alarms about its safety.

The FDA, in collaboration with the NIH, conducted studies revealing the bioaccumulation of bromine and toxic effects on the thyroid associated with BVO consumption.

These findings led to the FDA’s decision to propose the removal of its food additive authorization for BVO. The thyroid, a vital gland responsible for regulating various bodily functions, was identified as a potential target organ for toxicity caused by BVO.

BVO has a history of use in foods and was previously considered Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). It was primarily used to maintain the uniform distribution of flavors in beverages. However, the recent conclusive scientific evidence has prompted the FDA to reconsider its safety status.

According to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit research and advocacy group focused on consumer health, toxic chemicals, and pollutants, at least 90 products (mostly sodas) contain brominated vegetable oil as an ingredient.

The FDA’s previous restrictions on the amount of products containing this ingredient are the reason for the low number of products that contain it.

“In 1970, the FDA determined BVO was no longer ‘Generally Recognized as Safe’ and began overseeing its use under our food additive regulations,” said James Jones, the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for human foods in a statement.

“Over the years many beverage makers reformulated their products to replace BVO with an alternative ingredient, and today, few beverages in the U.S. contain BVO.”

In addition, according to an EWG news release, a 2012 petition with over 200,000 signatures also raised awareness of health issues. It further stated that, as a result of market pressure, numerous corporations removed it from consumer items.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) states that brominated vegetable oil has been connected to health risks such as headaches, exhaustion, irritation of the skin and mucous membranes, loss of memory and muscular coordination, and damage to the nervous system. Additionally, the component may gradually build up in the body.

California took proactive measures by signing a law to ban BVO, along with Red No. 3, potassium bromate, and propylparaben, effective from January 1, 2027.

The FDA is not only focusing on BVO but is also reassessing the safety of various chemicals in food, including FD&C Red No. 3. The agency is reviewing color additive regulations to ensure compliance with safety standards.

The FDA has opened a public commenting period, allowing stakeholders and experts to provide input until January 17, 2024.

The agency’s decision, shaped by scientific evidence and public input, will play a vital role in shaping the future of BVO’s usage in the food industry.

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