Soft drinks are not healthy. Not only do they have a lot of sugar, but in some popular brands the issue goes beyond the many  teaspoons of sugar the typical serving contains  a little-known ingredient that’s even more unhealthy.

That ingredient is a flame retardant call brominated vegetable oil (BVO). You read that right. Some 10% of sodas in the U.S. contain a flame retardant, and it’s not because drink companies sought to create a multipurpose product that can extinguish both raging thirsts and raging fires, but because BVO also makes a great fruit-flavored drink emulsifier, an ingredient that helps flavoring agents stay suspended in the formula. Mountain Dew and most citrus flavored drinks contains BVO. Coke and Pepsi do not contain BVO. Some sports drinks like Gatorade has BVO.

BVO, which is made by combining soy or corn oil with bromine, is limited by the FDA to 15 parts per million in soft drinks and sport beverages. That’s not much. The problem is that a lot of people these days are chugging large amounts of soda on a regular basis, and if you drink enough BVO, unhealthy effects are going to start showing up.

Drink makers say the ingredient is safe, and they’re probably right, at least as far as occasional soda drinkers are concerned. But for habitual soda drinkers things are not so clear cut, and that’s led to calls for BVO to be banned in soft drinks as it is in Europe and Japan where far less controversial natural emulsifiers are used.

Patented as a flame retardant for plastics, and banned in food throughout Europe and Japan, BVO has been added to sodas for decades in North America. Now some scientists have a renewed interest in this little-known ingredient, found in 10 percent of sodas in the United States. Research on its toxicity dates back to the 1970s, and some experts now urge a reassessment. After a few extreme soda binges – not too far from what many video gamers regularly consume – a few patients have needed medical attention for skin lesions, memory loss and nerve disorders, all symptoms of overexposure to bromine. Other studies suggest that BVO could be building up in human tissues. In mouse studies, big doses caused reproductive and behavioral problems.

BVO opponents point out that the current limits were set in the 1970s and are based on fairly ancient studies that should be updated using new, more advanced techniques that could uncover harmful effects the earlier research missed. They also point to evidence that bromine accumulates in people over time and has been found to trigger problems in animals. There are also worries that BVO could behave like the brominated flame retardants that some studies have linked to unpleasant health effects in people.

Few question marks surrounding BVO’s use in soft drinks and sports beverages, and some signs that it may be harming our health. If a drink contains BVO, it is mandatory for it  to be listed as an ingredients. Reading the list will tell us which brands contains BVO.

Mountain Dew, Fanta Orange, Squirt, some flavors of Gatorade and Powerade, as well as other fruit-flavored beverages contain brominated vegetable oil (BVO). On the Nutrition Connection page of its website, the Coca-Cola Company, which manufactures Fanta, defines BVO’s as “stabilizers to prevent the citrus flavoring oils from floating to the surface in beverages.” In other words, as Environmental Health News explains, BVO weighs down the citrus flavoring so that it mixes with the other soda ingredients, just as flame retardants slow down the chemical reactions which can cause fires.

We ear  too many processed foods and drinks that should be an occasional treat as it was when they first came out. They should not be a part of anyone’s daily diet program. Let’s get back to basics and feed ourselves and our family the basic foods of life. The closer to the way nature made them the better. Let’s especially not be giving them to our little ones. Junk food is addictive and parents should be aware of that fact. Be a good example to your children. They may not like it now but will thank you later.