NEW YORK – PepsiCo Inc. is removing a controversial ingredient from its Gatorade sports drink in response to customer complaints.
Molly Carter, a spokeswoman for the company, said Friday that the removal of brominated vegetable oil was in the works over the past year after the company began hearing rumblings from consumers about the ingredient. She said it wasn’t a reaction to a recent petition posted on www.change.org by a Mississippi teenager.
The ingredient is also used in other drinks, including some flavors of Powerade made by rival Coca-Cola Co. The Atlanta-based company did not say whether it would remove the ingredient from Powerade as well but said it takes customer concerns into account when looking for ways to improve its drinks.
Ingredients in food and drinks have come under greater scrutiny in recent years, helped by the ability of consumers to mobilize online. The www.change.org petition noted that brominated vegetable oil has been patented as a flame retardant and is banned in Japan and the European Union. It had more than 200,000 supporters Friday.
For Gatorade, Carter said the ingredient is used as an emulsifier, meaning it distributes flavoring evenly so that it doesn’t collect at the surface. She said it was used only in select varieties, including orange and citrus cooler.
Other drinks that use BVO include Coca-Cola’s Fanta and PepsiCo’s Mountain Dew. A spokesman for competitor Dr Pepper Snapple Group was not available to comment on whether the ingredient is used in any of its drinks.
Carter noted the ingredient is not banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and that PepsiCo’s decision wasn’t the result of health or safety concerns. She said the decision, first reported by the trade journal Beverage Digest, was specifically a response to concerns expressed by Gatorade customers.
Pulin Mondi, a spokesman for Change.org, said the move reflects the shift in power we’re seeing between businesses and their customers.