Why is brominated vegetable oil in Mountain Dew?
I can understand the high fructose corn syrup (number two on the ingredient list behind carbonated water) and the various chemicals to preserve flavor and freshness, but I’m not sure about oil. Would Mountain Dew rust your innards without it? Does brominated oil keep your voice box from squeaking?
I have looked in vain upon every shelf at Whole Foods and Food Giant to find the substance, because, as it turns out, brominated vegetable oil is just good old vegetable oil with bromine added to it.
You want to know why oil would need bromine added to it? It’s to keep the citrus flavor from floating on top of the sugar water instead of merging into delectable goo. And what is bromine? It’s the only non-metallic liquid chemical, extracted from sea water and quite useful if you’re manufacturing fumigants, flameproofing agents, insecticides, dyes and gasoline anti-knock compounds.
Apparently it might also make you say “Yahoo” when you drink it in Mountain Dew, because if inhaled or swallowed, straight bromine can damage the respiratory system and the digestive system or even cause death.
Although brominated vegetable oil is banned in many countries, here in the good ol’ USA, it’s okay to use in soft drinks, because one would have to drink thousands of ounces of Dew before it started wreaking havoc on one’s innards, and no one drinks that much Dew, right?
I’m pondering all this only because I’m interested in what makes us so slothful, and when I say “us,” I mean we the people of Jefferson County, and by “slothful,” I mean whatever the Centers for Disease Control mean in their new report, “Highest Rates of Leisure Time Physical Inactivity in Appalachia, the South.” With data from something called the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the CDC find that here in Alabama, 70 percent of our counties are most likely to have citizens who don’t do squat. The CDC express it more diplomatically, of course, saying that they’re just “not physically active in their leisure time”, but what they mean is that we are lumps.
Jefferson County, to be specific, harbors 28.4 percent of its adult population stretched out on the La-Z-Boy when they should be walking down the street, doing the odd sit-up or just flailing their arms to keep those turgid corpuscles moving through their calcified circulatory systems. Not exercising raises your chances of getting type -2 diabetes, not to mention increasing the likelihood you’ll have to buy two tickets for yourself the next time you fly Southwest.
Things could be worse, though. You might live in Tallapoosa County, where the rate of laze is 30.6 percent of the population. The problem there is that when a guy actually clambers up out of the recliner to get some exercise, he goes to Auburn to poison an oak tree.
Okay, that’s a faint jest, but, really, before Harvey Updyke came along, when was the last time you even thought about Dadeville?
[In fairness, here are five good things about Dadeville to zero out the one alleged tree poisoner it’s spawned:
1. Lake Martin.
2. Don’s Fast Tax and Check Cashing really is.
3. Daily lunch specials at Biggin & Chubb’s Home Plate Café.
4. Lakay’s Flowers and Gifts does both well.
5. When an oak goes down in Dadeville, Floyd’s Tree Service is on the case.]
The curious case of Harvey Updyke raises pertinent points. For one thing, he’s said to be an Alabama fan, but going on Paul Finebaum’s show to announce your crime on the radio suggests you may have done your undergraduate work at Bryce. For another, if Updyke did indeed commit dendrocide, justice might be better served by pulling the courts off the case and letting Yella Fella extract frontier justice.
Then there’s the bizarre motive for the crime. The alleged perpetrator is said to have carried a grudge against Auburn since 1983, based on his notion that Toomer’s Corner got rolled to celebrate the death of Bear Bryant. However, Robert Register, on his excellent blog, Zero Northwest Florida, contradicts that via a transcript of a 2006 radio interview with Buddy Buie, composer of the song, “The Day Bear Bryant Died.”
Interviewer Phil Paramore from WOOF was a sports columnist for The Auburn Plainsman in ’83 and remembers well the mood of The Loveliest Village: “On that day it was almost as if a pall fell over even the Auburn campus…[Coach Pat Dye] sort of imparted the message to the Auburn family, ‘Look, there’s nothing good about this. We have lost a true legend and a guy who has been a major influence on me and I, in turn, have tried to impart that wisdom on this program and building a foundation off what I learned from him, so let’s all be aware.’”
Perhaps the alleged tree assailant was confusing Bear Bryant’s passing with that of John F. Kennedy twenty years before, for which there was indeed cheering and celebration in certain benighted parts of the state. Anyone fool enough to have applauded aloud Paul Bryant’s demise in 1983 would have been killed outright. Maybe even with herbicide.
The felony-weight peckerwood who thought killing a tree would be cool did more than poison the root system of historic oaks. Besides his family’s good name, he managed to poison his state’s reputation as well. At a time when the rest of the nation could look to Alabama as the first state with back-to-back national football championships from two different schools, the poison in this guy’s soul now persuades the rest of the nation to look at us as the place where sociopaths unable to differentiate between a football game and real life conduct blood feuds with vegetation.
It’s enough to make one want to curl up in a La-Z-Boy with a liter of Mountain Dew…
Courtney Haden is a Birmingham Weekly columnist. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.