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Why is Gatorade banned in other countries? Skittles suit raises questions

Bruno Cooke July 19, 2022
Why is Gatorade banned in other countries? Skittles suit raises questions
Photo by Jerry Driendl/Getty Images

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Amid questions surrounding the fate of Skittles in the US, you might be wondering why Gatorade is banned in other countries, and where.

The Focus reported Monday on a California lawsuit alleging that Skittles are “unfit for human consumption”.

And Gatorade has not been without its share of ups and downs, when it comes to ingredients being banned and changes required.

So why is Gatorade not available in certain countries, which countries are they, and what other products can you not get in some countries outside the US?

Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images

Why is Gatorade banned in other countries besides the US?

Gatorade contains two food dyes which the European Union sees as essentially unfit for human consumption.

In 2010, Slate reports, the European Parliament passed a law requiring warning labels on products containing any of six particular food dyes, including yellow 5 and yellow 6.

The law also completely banned the use of food dyes in foods consumed by infants and young children. And it’s worth noting that Norway and Austria have banned yellow 5 and yellow 6 completely.

The US’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reacted differently to the same evidence, as presented in a research article in academic journal the Lancet. But what was the research?

“Everett, United States- May 2, 2012: A lone Gatorade cooler sitting on the bench at a community soccer game. Gatorade is a top brand of sports drink.”

Why did the European Union ban food dyes present in Gatorade?

In 2007, a group of scientists from the University of Southampton in the UK published an article in the Lancet academic journal about the relationship between food additives (such as the artificial colours you find in Gatorade) and hyperactive behaviour in children.

They conducted a “randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial”. The principal finding was that artificial colours in the diet “result in increased hyperactivity in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the general population”.

This piece of research was central to the European Parliament’s decision to ban certain food dyes. Meanwhile, the FDA reckoned there might not have been a causal relationship.

In other words, it was far less cautious. It did, however, recognise that dyes make the symptoms of ADHD worse.

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Gatorade also used to contain brominated vegetable oil but that was banned in 2013

Brominated vegetable oil, or BVO for short, is a food additive manufactures sometimes use to keep citrus flavour from “separating”.

That’s according to Mayo Clinic (MC).

Health concerns about it stem from its ingredient bromine. Bromine can irritate the skin and mucous membranes in the nose, mouth, lungs and stomach.

Longterm exposure, MC adds, “can cause neurologic symptoms such as headache, memory loss, and impaired balance or coordination”. Gatorade no longer contains brominated vegetable oil; it discontinued the ingredient in 2013, and replaced it with sucrose acetate isobutyrate

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What other US products besides Gatorade are banned in some other countries?

PepsiCo Inc removed the controversial brominated vegetable oil ingredient from its Gatorade products in 2013. It did so after (though apparently not as a result of) a petition on Change.org by a Mississippi teenager

It was also, at the time, present in Powerade.

And, as mentioned above, a lot of artificial food dyes (found in cereals, baked goods, sodas, macaroni and cheese, etc. in the US) are banned in other countries.

According to Delish, some other products you can’t get in certain countries outside the US include: farmed salmon that’s been fed synthetic astaxanthin, cooking oil substitute Olestra, azodicarbonamide (used to bleach flour) and synthetic hormones rBGH and rBST (used to stimulate cows to produce milk). 

Ritz crackers are also banned in some countries, the problematic ingredient being partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil. According to Stacker, they’re unavailable in many European countries, including Austria, Denmark, Hungary, Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland – and in parts of the US, too.

Wheat Thins, meanwhile, contain butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). Per the New York Times, BHT is “subject to severe restrictions in Europe”, along with its sister additive BHA.

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com.