Gatorade Removes 'Fire Retardant' Chemical

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The makers of Gatorade are removing a chemical also used in fire retardants from the sports drink after an online campaign by consumers.

Gatorade said it would stop using brominated vegetable oil (BVO) - patented as a chemical to prevent flames from spreading - in its citrus-flavoured drinks in the US.

"While our products are safe, we are making this change because we know that some consumers have a negative perception of BVO in Gatorade," company spokeswoman Molly Carter said in a statement.

BVO is used as an emulsifier, meaning it keeps the flavouring distributed evenly rather allowing it to settle on the top, in a number of brands of soft drinks in the United States. It is banned from food in Europe and Japan.

More than 200,000 people had signed on to an online petition launched by a Mississippi high school student urging Gatorade to stop using BVO.

Claiming victory, 15-year-old Sarah Kavanagh said: "When I went to Change.org to start my petition, I thought it might get a lot of support because no one wants to gulp down flame retardant, especially from a drink they associate with being healthy.

"But with Gatorade being as big as they are, sometimes it was hard to know if we'd ever win.

"This is so, so awesome."

However, Ms Carter said the move was not a response to the campaign and had actually been planned by Gatorade, a subsidiary of PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP - news) , for some time.

The new version of Gatorade, which will be available in the coming months, is replacing the BVO with an ingredient called sucrose acetate isobutyrate, which Ms Carter said will maintain the flavour and taste of the drinks.

Concern about BVO grew in 2011 after an article in Scientific American by scientists called for a reassessment of its safety.

Some soda binge-drinkers "have needed medical attention for skin lesions, memory loss and nerve disorders, all symptoms of overexposure to bromine," the magazine said.