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Coke Lays Off the ‘Brominated Vegetable Oil’ Sauce

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Note the brownish consistency…

Ever tried to set your soda on fire and notice that it just wouldn’t light up?

Yesterday brought yet another case of a big brand responding to social media peer pressure.

In a story that’s oddly similar to the ongoing GMO “debate”, the Coca-Cola Company announced yesterday that it would stop using “brominated vegetable oil”, which happens to contain a flame-retardant chemical called bromine, in some of its beverages.

Here’s a nice description of bromine’s effects via the CDC:

“Bromine works by directly irritating the skin, mucous membranes, and tissues.”

Sounds pleasant. We can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to drink it.

So why did they make this change? More importantly, why were they using it in the first place? As the company told The New York Times:

“Brominated vegetable oil is used in some of our beverages to improve the stability of our products, preventing certain ingredients from separating.”

So it helps to ensure that your Fanta is orange by reducing streakage. Or something like that. Now Coke will remove the offending material from all its products by 2015 and achieve the same effect with “sucrose acetate isobutyrate and glycerol ester of rosin, either singly or in combination”. Sounds much tastier, doesn’t it? Most importantly, this move comes in response to an online uproar sparked by a 17-year-old’s petition.

One should note that Coke is hardly breaking new ground here: PepsiCo agreed to stop using the material in Gatorade back in 2012 (though it still appears in other Pepsi products), and the European Union just straight-up banned the stuff.

So, while we can and should credit the student who created the Change.org page, the story reminds us of the Target security breach fiasco in that it really came about because of differences in regulatory rules on different sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Still, credit goes to Coca-Cola for doing something it didn’t necessarily have to do. And score another point for the public and the power of DIY “cause marketing.”

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