Mercury in high fructose corn syrup

One more reason to avoid high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is the discovery of high levels of mercury in food products sweetened with it. A study by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) discovered mercury in almost a third of 55 popular food and drink brands that list HFCS as the top ingredient — including products by Quaker, Hershey’s, Kraft and Smucker’s. Another study, published in Environmental Health, tested 20 samples of commercial HFCS and found mercury in nine samples.

Mercury-grade caustic soda is used to separate cornstarch from the corn kernel in industrial chlorine (chlor-alkali) plants. While the FDA had evidence that commercial HFCS was contaminated with mercury four years ago, the agency did not inform consumers, help change industry practice or conduct additional testing. In 2007, then-Senator Barack Obama introduced legislation to force the remaining chlor-alkali plants to phase out mercury cell technology by 2012. It did not pass.

The Corn Refiner’s Association says both studies are overblown and “based on outdated information of dubious significance.”

HFCS has just about completely replaced sugar in processed food, mostly because it is cheaper for manufacturers. The average American consumes approximately 12 teaspoons of HFCS every day. American kids eat and drink 62 pounds of this sweetener every year. HFCS is found in soda, “fruit” drinks, cookies, gum, jelly, baked goods and more.

“Mercury is toxic in all its forms,” said IATP’s David Wallinga, M.D., and a co-author in both studies. “Given how much high fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be a significant additional source of mercury never before considered. We are calling for immediate changes by industry and the FDA to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply.”

HFCS provides empty calories, is highly inflammatory and causes the body to work harder to make enough insulin to process it — thus contributing to the epidemic of type 2 diabetes.

Top 21 products with mercury-lace HFCS

  • Quaker Oatmeal to Go
  • Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauce (Heinz)
  • Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup
  • Kraft Original Barbecue Sauce
  • Nutri-Grain Strawberry Cereal Bars
  • Hunt’s Manwich Bold Sloppy Joe
  • Market Pantry Grape Jelly
  • Smucker’s Strawberry Jelly
  • Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts Frosted Blueberry
  • Hunt’s Tomato Ketchup
  • Wish-Bone Western Sweet & Smooth
  • Coca-Cola Classic
  • Yoplait Strawberry Yogurt
  • Minute Maid Berry Punch
  • Yoo-hoo Chocolate Drink
  • Nesquik Chocolate Milk
  • Kemps Fat Free Chocolate Milk
  • Hy-Top Syrup
  • Hawaiian Punch Fruit Juicy Red
  • NOS High Performance Energy Drink
  • A&W Root Beer


Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 28, Number 2, Apr/May 2009.


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