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The US Food and Drug Administration has proposed repealing its regulation authorizing the nationwide use of brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, as an ingredient in food.
The FDA’s decision comes after California banned the ingredient in October by passing the California Food Safety Act, the first state law in the United States to ban brominated vegetable oil. The add-on is already banned in Europe and Japan.
“The agency concluded that the intended use of BVO in food is no longer considered safe after the results of a study conducted in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health … found the potential for adverse health effects in humans,” said James Jones, FDA deputy. food commissioner, in a statement.
Brominated vegetable oil – vegetable oil that has been modified with bromine, a red fat chemical, is used as an emulsifier in citrus-flavored beverages to keep the flavor separate and floating. Bromine is also commonly used in flame retardants.
It’s possible that dozens of products — especially sodas — use brominated vegetable oil as an ingredient, according to the Eat Well Guide of the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit research and advocacy group focused on consumer health, toxic chemicals and pollutants.
The low number of products containing this ingredient is due to past FDA restrictions.
“In 1970, the FDA determined that BVO was ‘no longer generally recognized as safe’ … and began overseeing its use under our food additive laws,” Jones said in a statement. “Over the years many beverage manufacturers have replaced BVO with another ingredient in their products, and today, few beverages in the US contain BVO.”
Additionally, a 2012 petition with more than 200,000 signatures also brought attention to health issues, according to EWG news. It also said that many companies were eliminating it from consumer products due to market pressure.
Brominated vegetable oils have been linked to health risks including nervous system damage, headaches, skin and mucous membrane irritation, fatigue, and loss of muscle coordination and memory, according to the EWG. The substance can also accumulate in the body over time.
The research that prompted the FDA’s decision was conducted on animals, but the observed health effects were at a level very close to real-world human exposure, according to a news release. Another damaging research finding is the toxic effects on the thyroid gland, which produces hormones important for regulating blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature and metabolism.
“Today’s announcement will ensure that everyone has access to BVO-free products,” Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs, said in a statement.
The FDA’s Jones said the proposed ban “is an example of how the agency monitors emerging evidence and, as needed, conducts scientific research to investigate safety-related questions, and takes regulatory action when science does not support the continued safe use of supplements.” food.”
The final decision is yet to come – following the receipt of comments until January 17, 2024, and the review process – but if you want to avoid eating brominated vegetable oil until then, check the list of ingredients of the products before buying them.
Fix: A previous version of this story gave an incorrect count of the number of products on the market that contain BVO.