Wednesday, December 9, 2015

PepsiCo: BVO in soft drinks(2014)

A photo describing BVO,
including health risks
An ethical controversy surrounding PepsiCo is their use of a chemical called BVO (brominated vegetable oil) in their soft drinks, which is the same chemical commonly used as a flame retardant. The reason BVO would be used in a soft drink is to help prolong the shelf life of the product by preventing the colors and flavors added to soft drinks from breaking down while the product is still on the shelf. The problem with BVO is it is resulting in some consumers of the soft drinks developing memory loss, skin lesions, and nerve problems. Additionally, the use of BVO has already been banned in countries in Europe and Japan. After a petition written by a 15-year-old in 2012, PepsiCo announced in May of 2014 they would be removing BVO from all of their soft-drinks but as of now there is still BVO in some of their more citrus prevalent soft drinks such as Mountain Dew.

Stakeholders of this controversy include the owners and suppliers of BVO, but most importantly, the customers of Pepsi. The customers of Pepsi are directly affected by this case because they will be the ones experiencing the health risks if they are consuming a chemical that is associated with such risks. Additionally, the power of the customers is shown when Pepsi removed BVO from many of their products after a petition against the chemical gained over 100,000 signatures. The owners are stakeholders because if they cant produce a product that can allow their customers to trust them, their profits will be directly affected negatively. Lastly, now that BVO is known to be a chemical associated with health risks, those who supply the chemical to soft-drink companies will no longer be in business because if the companies care about their consumers, they will find another way to improve the shelf life of products without harming consumers.

Individualism is the practice of being self-reliant or putting your own goals first in order to gain success in life. In business, the practice of individualism is to focus solely on maximizing company profits for the stakeholders. Friedman, a Nobel Prize economist feels that as long as a company fits within legal boundaries their only goal should be to maximize company profits. Under this theory, PepsiCo is behaving ethically because the amount of BVO being used falls under the legal limits allowed in products set by the FDA. Additionally, the use of BVO allows them to increase profits by improving shelf life.
PepsiCo logo and a couple of their signature item logos beneath

Utilitarianism is working to find happiness in yourself and others for the purpose of meeting intrinsic values. The goal of utilitarianism is to convey happiness and pleasure to anyone who can feel it. Under this theory, PepsiCo is not behaving ethically. While they are trying to keep costs down, which makes people happy, they are not caring for their consumers, which makes people unhappy. When consumers realize the negative health risks associated with a chemical like this, it is not going to make consumers happy. This fails to follow the theory of utilitarianism, which makes PepsiCo’s use of the chemical unethical.


PepsiCo’s practices can be evaluated using the theory of Kantianism to see if it is ethical. Kantianism is acting rationally and being motivated by good will by respecting people. is  What this means is when making decisions, you should consider others and make sure that your decision will not impact others negatively. When evaluated with PepsiCo’s practices, this also makes PepsiCo’s practices unethical. Pepsi is using a chemical that is banned in many countries due to health risks, by keeping it in their products in countries where it is not allowed Pepsi is not acting rationally. Pepsi is not respecting people or being motivated by good will if they are still trying to use a product that is shown to be unhealthy to help increase profits. Additionally, it is not rational to use a chemical when many people know it is unhealthy because it builds mistrust among consumers toward the company.
BVO shown on the back of a Mountain Dew bottle in the ingredients;
Mountain Dew is a very popular soda beverage

Personally, what I think represents company’s ethical practices the most is how well it can conform to the virtue theory. The virtue theory is the practice of using characteristics that help to allow things to function without problems. The virtue theory is what helps things get done the way we intend them to and also operate the same way. Additionally, virtues should be followed to ensure this. These virtues are, courage, honesty, self-control, and justice. PepsiCo is not using these virtues in their decision to use BVO in soft drinks. PepsiCo could have been a front-runner in consumer awareness and used more responsible ingredients, which would increase profits through consumer trust. By using the chemical Pepsi is not being exemplifying courage, honesty, self-control, or justice because they are aware of the problem but aren’t fixing it because it helps them profit.

A lot could have been done to prevent this situation from happening or even reacting to it after the controversy happened. PepsiCo should look at their company on an international level and look into ingredients that might be banned in some countries. If ingredients are banned such as BVO in countries due to health risks, PepsiCo should be responsible and eliminate those ingredients and replace them with safer options. Additionally, if PepsiCo makes a statement that they will remove the chemical from all products, they must keep their word. Pepsi over a yar ago said they would remove the chemical that to this day is yet to be removed. This is unacceptable and if they want to build a trust among their consumers they must earn it and provide products without ingredients that should be removed due to health reasons.

Coupland, John. "Why Would You Put Brominated Vegetable Oil in Soda?" Popular Science. Popular Science, n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2015.
Dr. Mercola. "Coca-Cola and PepsiCo Agreed to Remove Brominated Vegetable Oil." N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2015.
O'Brien, Robyn. "Mountain Dew Ingredient Banned in 100 Countries." Robyn O'Brien. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2015.
PepsiCo. "Official Site for PepsiCo Beverage Information | Product." Official Site for PepsiCo Beverage Information | Product. PepsiCo, 15 Oct. 2015. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.
"Who We Are." Brands Explore. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2015.
Salazar, Healther. Power Point Lectures. 2015.

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