Hattiesburg teen helps shakes up sports drink industry

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - A major beverage company is removing an ingredient from its product after petitions and complaints from consumers, the largest of which started by a Pine Belt teenager.

PepsiCo Inc. announced Friday plans to remove brominated vegetable oil or BVO from its Gatorade sports drinks. The ingredient is an emulsifier, a chemical that keeps the beverage of uniform consistency. Gatorade has long-asserted the ingredient is safe, and the ingredient is not prohibited by the FDA.

Gatorade said in a public statement that although they still believe the ingredient is safe, they will give in to the demands of consumers and remove it.

Hattiesburg High School sophomore Sarah Kavanagh, 15, started an online petition after learning about the chemical and its effects on humans from an online article, and more than 200,000 people joined the petition.

Molly Carter, a spokeswoman for the company, said Friday that the removal of brominated vegetable oil was in the works over the past year after the company began "hearing rumblings" from consumers about the ingredient. She said it wasn't a direct reaction to the petition started on Change.org by Kavanagh.

Kavanagh will appear on The Doctor Oz Show on January 30 to talk about her campaign.

BVO is also used in other drinks, including some flavors of Powerade made by rival Coca-Cola Co. The Atlanta-based company did not say whether it would remove the ingredient from Powerade as well but noted that it takes customer concerns into account when looking for ways to improve its drinks.

Copyright 2013 WDAM. All rights reserved.