FDA finds brominated vegetable oil no longer safe for use in food

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the Food and Drug Administration announced it is revoking the rule that allowed the use of brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, in food, because of concerns about the chemical’s health harms. 

The agency’s action is a significant step toward protecting public health, given studies that show BVO’s harmful effects on the nervous system.

“The FDA’s decision to ban brominated vegetable oil in food is a victory for public health. But it’s disgraceful that it took decades of regulatory inaction to protect consumers from this dangerous chemical,” said Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group. 

“It's outrageous that for years Americans have been consuming a chemical banned in Europe and Japan. The FDA’s belated action on BVO underscores the urgent need for more rigorous and timely oversight of food additives,” said Faber.

In lieu of federal action, some states have stepped up. In October 2023, California enacted the California Food Safety Act, the first law in the U.S. to ban BVO, and three other harmful chemicals, from food manufactured, distributed or sold in the state. That law was originally introduced in the California Legislature by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino).

'A step forward'

“As the author of the law banning brominated vegetable oil from foods sold in California, I am pleased to see the FDA finally taking action on this harmful chemical,” said Gabriel. “This decision aligns with California’s commitment to protecting children and families, and sets a national standard that will benefit all Americans.”

“While the FDA’s announcement is a step forward, allowing BVO to remain in foods for so long despite clear evidence of harm highlights a glaring failure in our food safety system. The FDA must act quickly to expedite its reviews and do more to remove harmful and toxic chemicals from our food supply,” Gabriel added.

Health concerns

In addition to harm to the nervous system, BVO has been linked to other health hazards. It can also build up in the body. Research shows a connection between large amounts of BVO-containing soda ingested over a long period of time and problems such as headaches, irritation of the skin and mucous membranes, fatigue and loss of muscle coordination and memory.

BVO was originally considered “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA, but that designation was removed in 1970. Soon after, at the request of manufacturers, the agency again claimed it could be used “on an interim basis” in limited quantities. 

Under market pressure, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have reformulated their products without BVO faster than the federal government has acted to ban it in food and beverages. PepsiCo pledged to remove BVO from Gatorade and confirmed in early 2020 that none of its products contain the chemical. Coca-Cola removed BVO from all its drinks by the end of 2014 and recently confirmed it is no longer in their beverages.

Consumer advice

Consumers should remain vigilant and carefully read ingredient labels to avoid BVO and other potentially harmful additives. Products containing BVO may remain for sale on store shelves.  Choosing fresh whole foods and drinking water instead of soda or juice can help minimize exposure to BVO and other chemicals.

For more information and to stay informed about food safety, please visit EWG’s Guide to Food Additives and Food Scores database, which rates food products and beverages based on ingredient, nutrient and processing concerns.


The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.

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