NEW YORK, NY - MAY 05: Various flavors of Powerade sports drink sit for sale on a refrigerator shelf in a store on May 5, 2014 in New York City. Coca-Cola has announced it will remove a controversial ingredient, Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO), from Powerade after a similar move by PepsiCo's Gatorade last year. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Various flavors of Powerade sports drink sit for sale on a refrigerator shelf in a store.
Getty Images

Coca-Cola announced Monday it is dropping a controversial ingredient in its Powerade sports drink that has previously been linked to flame retardant, the AP reports.

The ingredient, brominated vegetable oil, had come under scrutiny after a Mississippi teen, Sarah Kavanagh, created an online petition through Change.org questioning its use in the sports drink and calling for its removal.

Brominated vegetable oil (BVO) is used as a “stabilizer for flavoring oils used in fruit-flavored beverages,” according to the US Food and Drug Administration. Besides sports drinks, BVO is also found in certain soft drinks including Mountain Dew and Squirt to help give it its citrus flavor.

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However, the agency acknowledged that more scientific research needs to be conducted to understand its health risks.

According to the Mayo Clinic, BVO contains bromine, an element found in brominated flame retardants. The ingredient is generally safe when consumed at low levels, but studies suggest that the element can build up in the body over time. Consuming a large amount of beverages that contain the BVO—that is, 2 to 4 liters per day—has been linked to a case of someone suffering from memory and motor loss and another case of a person developing a rare skin condition known as bromoderma, according to WebMD.

High levels of bromine in the body can also cause skin breakouts known as halogen acne, according to WebMD.

Last year, PepsiCo dropped brominated vegetable oil from Gatorade after Kavanaugh petitioned the company. Her online petition received more than 200,000 signatures of support.

The AP reports:

This week, bottles of Powerade in fruit punch and strawberry lemonade flavors being sold in the Detroit, Michigan; Omaha, Nebraska, New York and Washington, D.C. areas no longer list the ingredient. Some bottles still list it, however, suggesting Coca-Cola Co. may have started phasing it out recently.

The ingredient is currently banned as a drink additive in Europe and Japan.