FDA proposes to ban brominated vegetable oil in food

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently announced its proposal to revoke the approval of brominated vegetable oil (BVO) as a food additive. The decision comes after recent studies conducted in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) revealed potential adverse health effects associated with BVO consumption.    

BVO is a vegetable oil that has been modified with bromine and has been used in small amounts to prevent the separation of citrus flavoring in certain beverages. However, the FDA's evaluation, based on scientific evidence from toxicology studies, has concluded that the intended use of BVO is no longer considered safe.    

The studies conducted by the FDA and NIH showed that BVO can accumulate in the body, leading to potential toxic effects on the thyroid gland. The thyroid plays a crucial role in regulating various bodily functions, and any disruption or damage to this gland can have significant health consequences.    

BVO has a long history of use in foods and was previously considered Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). However, the recent scientific evidence has prompted the FDA to reevaluate its safety status.    

Over the years, many beverage manufacturers have reformulated their products and replaced BVO with alternative ingredients. As a result, the number of beverages containing BVO in the US has significantly decreased.  

The FDA's proposal to ban BVO is part of its ongoing efforts to monitor and reassess the safety of various chemicals in food. The agency prioritizes the review of chemicals based on risk, scientific evidence, and regulatory authority. The FDA is also currently reviewing the color additive regulations for FD&C Red No. 3, which is used in ingested drugs, foods, and dietary supplements.    

The ingredient is banned from drinks in Europe and Japan. In the US, California has already taken proactive measures by passing a law to ban the use of BVO, along with three other food ingredients, effective from January 1, 2027. The FDA acknowledges and supports these state-level efforts to ensure food safety.    

The FDA has opened a public commenting period to gather input from stakeholders and experts regarding the proposed ban on BVO. The agency will consider scientific evidence and public feedback in making its final decision.    

Consumer advocacy groups, such as Consumer Reports and the Environmental Working Group, have applauded the FDA's proposal.