Coca-Cola Is Less Harmful Because Of One Teenage Girl

May 7, April 2014: Who says your voice isn’t important?

Good job, petitioners!

At long last, Coca-Cola will remove the harmful Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO) from Fanta and Powerade. Just how harmful are we talking? Well, BVO has been linked to a host of health hazards, including memory loss and obstruction of the nervous system.

Who are we to thank for such a laudable feat? Like all revolutions, this too came from unlikely origins. A Mississippi teenage girl was confused. Sarah Kavanagh posed a simple question: why are drinks that are targeted at health-conscious athletes, unhealthy?

She launched a petition on that first shamed PepsiCo into removing the ingredient from its Gatorade last year.

It came to her notice that large beverage manufacturers use bromide, a substance employed in brominated flame-retardants.

A WHO report on Bromide in Drinking Water reports a host of health concerns associated with bromide. This substance is linked to damaged neurological development, reduced fertility, premature onset of puberty and misbalanced thyroid hormones.

It’s interesting to note that Coca-Cola is stubbornly condoning this ingredient, in spite of its latest announcement. Coca-Cola mentioned to the BBC that, "All of our beverages, including those with BVO, are safe and always have been and comply with all regulations in the countries where they are sold." It added that, "The safety and quality of our products is our highest priority."

But different countries have opposing views on the safety of this substance. While there is an outright ban of BVO in Japan and Europe, America allows drinks companies up to “15-parts per million”. It grants this despite the FDA dropping It from its "Generally Recognized as Safe" list of edible items back in the 1970s.

But the important lesson to take away from all this is that ordinary people can be agents of change even when it comes to standing up against big corporations. Unhealthy chemicals and preservatives are mired in almost everything we eat- there’s no escaping. However, this is no reason to accept this as something that can’t be altered. Big manufacturers capitalize and manage to get away with using harmful ingredients because consumers are either ignorant or don’t care enough. A young girl managed to get giants like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo to eliminate BVO in their beverages– whether they give her the credit for it or not. So, perhaps we should be the change we want to see?

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