NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Coca-Cola Company said on Monday it will remove a controversial flavoring stabilizer from some of its drinks, following rival PepsiCo Inc's announcement earlier this year that it would drop the same ingredient from its drinks.
The ingredient, brominated vegetable oil (BVO), is a chemical containing bromine, which is found in fire retardants. Small quantities of BVO are used legally in some citrus-flavored drinks in the United States to keep the flavor evenly distributed.
Coca-Cola said the ingredient was dropped from two flavors of its Powerade drink - fruit punch and strawberry lemonade - earlier this year. The company expects to remove it from its Fanta and Fresca sods, and as well as citrus-flavored fountain drinks, by year's end for U.S. consumers.
The company said it will also remove the ingredient in its products sold globally but did not provide a timeline.
Coke, which has said its use of BVO was safe for consumers, will use as a replacement sucrose acetate isobutyrate, which it has used for over a decade in some drinks, or glycerol ester of rosin, a ingredient commonly found in chewing gums and drinks, the company said.
The use of the chemical in sports drinks has drawn concern from consumers as well as from a Mississippi teenager, Sarah Kavanagh, who circulated two online petitions to put pressure on Coca-Cola and PepsiCo to remove the ingredient from their drinks.
Kavanagh's PepsiCo petition received more than 200,000 signatures and, after the company announced the change in late January, the teenager declared victory. The Coca Cola petition had been signed by some 60,000 people as of Monday.
"I knew that if Gatorade could do the right thing, so could Powerade," Kavanagh said. "I’m glad to know the Powerade sold at my school and consumed by people around the world will be a little bit healthier without BVO in it."
According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a food safety watchdog group, BVO is a "poorly tested and possibly dangerous food additive and there's no reason to use it in Gatorade or other drinks."
(Reporting by Curtis Skinner, editing by Edith Honan and Cynthia Osterman)