Then, the list included ingredients such as vitamin A and citric acid — about 180 in all.
Today, as food scientists create more and more new ingredients to add health benefits or help food stay fresh, there are at least 4,650 of these "generally recognized as safe" ingredients, according to the nonpartisan Pew Charitable Trusts. The bulk of them, at least 3,000, were determined GRAS by food manufacturers or trade associations, and their expert scientists.
But no one knows exactly how many "GRAS" ingredients are in products because manufacturers are not required to notify the FDA before adding them.
BVO was on the "safe" list when Stokely-Van Camp Inc. developed orange-flavored Gatorade in 1969. The FDA notes that BVO contains far less bromine than flame retardants and is considered safe for use in limited quantities in fruit-flavored drinks. It is used to emulsify citrus oil in fruit-flavored beverages including Mountain Dew, Fanta and Powerade.
The ingredient, which is banned as an additive in Japan and the European Union, will remain in orange Gatorade through this spring, said spokeswoman Molly Carter of PepsiCo, which now owns Gatorade. She added that the decision to drop it was sparked by consumer rumblings over the past year, not Kavanagh's petition specifically.
"While our products are safe, we are making this change because we know that some consumers have a negative perception of BVO in Gatorade," Carter said in a statement.
In 1958, Congress amended the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to establish the "generally recognized as safe" exemption. In the following years, FDA added ingredients to its "safe" list after reviewing the supporting science. However, that proved a time-consuming process, so in 1997 FDA changed its procedures to allow food companies to voluntarily notify the agency of ingredients they consider safe by submitting published research and expert opinion. Not all do. But since 1997, the FDA has received 451 such notifications, and the agency disagreed with the science in 17 cases.