Brominated vegetable oil, a synthetic chemical that has been patented in Europe as a flame retardant, will no longer double as an ingredient in Gatorade sports drinks.
Molly Carter, a spokeswoman for Gatorade owner PepsiCo Inc., said the company has been considering the move for more than a year, working on a way to take out the ingredient without affecting the flavor of the drink.
A recent petition on Change.org to drop the chemical – which has more than 200,000 supporters – did not inspire the decision, Carter said, though she acknowledged that consumer feedback was the main impetus.
In the petition, posted by Sarah Kavanagh of Hattiesburg, Miss., "BVO" is described as banned in Japan and the European Union.
The effort quotes a Scientific American article suggesting that "BVO could be building up in human tissues" and that studies on mice have shown "reproductive and behavioral problems" linked to large doses of the chemical.
The reformulated Gatorade flavors "will start rolling out in the next few months," Carter said.
There's no hard date for the launch because "we're not recalling Gatorade," she said. "We don't think our products are unsafe. We don't think there are health or safety risks."
The BVO ingredient was used as a flavor emulsifier, helping to distribute Gatorade's coloring throughout the bottle, Carter said. Now, the company is swapping in another emulsifier with an intimidating name: sucrose acetate isobutyrate.