Coca-Cola Caves to Pressure from Teen to Stop Using Sketchy Ingredient

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Coca-Cola said on Monday that it will stop using brominated vegetable oil (BVO) in all of its drinks, giving in to the request of a petition started by a teenager. 

The company currently uses BVO in some flavors of Fanta and Fresca, in addition to all flavors of Powerade, as a way to "improve the stability of its drinks and prevent certain ingredients from separating," per the Associated Press. Both Europe and Japan have banned the ingredient because bromine is also found in flame retardants, which are obviously not great for human consumption. Plus, according to the Mayo Clinic, BVO has been linked with some unsavory side effects: 

There also have been a few reports of people experiencing memory loss and skin and nerve problems after drinking excessive amounts (more than 2 liters a day) of soda containing BVO. Some beverage manufacturers are even considering taking BVO out of their products.

To be fair, drinking more than two liters of BVO-free soda is probably not great for you, either. 

Coca-Cola did not say it was pulling the ingredient for safety reasons, however, maintaining on Monday that "All of our beverages, including those with BVO, are safe and always have been -- and comply with all regulations in the countries where they are sold. The safety and quality of our products is our highest priority." The decision follows a similar one by PepsiCo, which decided to stop using BVO in Gatorade last year. 

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Mississippi teenager Sarah Kavanagh is credited with shaming both companies to stop using the ingredient. Two years ago she asked readers to join her in signing a letter she wrote to Gatorade, in which she admonished the company for acting like a jerk:

You put slick ads on TV encouraging people like me to buy your products, but it's shocking that you have a flame retardant chemical called 'brominated vegetable oil' in some flavors. Please stop deceiving consumers and remove this chemical from your products. We know you can do better than this! We look forward to hearing an update. 

And once Gatorade did as told, she turned her attention to Powerade, writing: 

I heard that Gatorade recently decided to stop using brominated vegetable oil in its products. I think that was a great thing for them to do. It took 200,000 people to weigh in on last time, but I hope you avoid the controversy and remove this chemical, too. Considering it is banned in Europe and Japan, I’d like to think my health is as important as the people who live there! I hope you’ll agree. A crazy chemical linked to flame retardants has no place in our sports drinks. Thank you for your consideration.

Sick burns, Sarah. We look forward to seeing you on Capitol Hill. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.