The ingredients on a bottle of Mountain Dew are photographed in San Francisco on May 5, 2014. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo will drop brominated vegetable oil from all of their drinks. Picture: Jeff Chiu

New York - Coca-Cola and PepsiCo were working to remove a controversial ingredient from all their drinks, including Fanta and Powerade, they said this week.

The ingredient, brominated vegetable oil (BVO), has been the target of petitions on by a Mississippi teenager who wanted it removed. In her petitions, Sarah Kavanagh noted that the ingredient had been patented as a flame retardant and was not approved for use in Japan and the EU.

Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have stood by the safety of the ingredient, which is used to distribute flavours more evenly in fruit-flavoured drinks. But their decisions reflect the pressure companies face as people pay closer attention to ingredient labels and try to stick to diets they feel are natural.

Several major food makers have recently changed their recipes to remove chemicals or dyes that consumers find objectionable.

While food companies stress that the ingredients meet regulatory requirements, their decisions reflect how marketing a product as “natural” has become priority and a competitive advantage.

PepsiCo had said last year that it would remove it from Gatorade. On Monday, the company said it had since been working to remove it from the rest of its products. It also uses BVO in its Mountain Dew and Amp energy drinks.

Also on Monday, Coca-Cola said that it was removing the ingredient from all its drinks to be consistent with the ingredients it uses around the world. Coca-Cola uses BVO in some flavours of Fanta, Fresca and citrus-flavoured fountain drinks. The company said BVO should be phased out in the US by the end of the year.

Coca-Cola said it would instead use sucrose acetate isobutyrate, which, it noted, had been used in drinks for more than 14 years, and glycerol ester of rosin, which it said was commonly found in chewing gum and drinks.

A spokesman noted that BVO is not used in many other countries, but said it would be phased out in Canada and Latin America.

The Centre for Science in the Public Interest, a health advocacy group, notes that the Food and Drug Administration permitted the use of BVO on an interim basis in 1970 pending additional study. Decades later, the group notes, BVO is still on the interim list.

Seventeen-year-old Kavanagh said: “It’s good to know that big companies are listening to consumers.” – Sapa-AP