High Fructose Corn Syrup Contains MercuryJan 29, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has been found to contain mercury, according to two recent studies. HealthDay News reported that in one study, about half of all samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup were found to contain mercury; in the other study, mercury was found in about one in every three of the products tested.
Reuters reported that many ubiquitous food products contain commercially produced high fructose corn syrup containing mercury. Mercury has been at the root of a long and expansive debate over its connection to vaccines and fish and the prevalence of autism and autism spectrum disorders plaguing children today.
Study co-author and food safety researcher and activist, Dr. David Wallinga said, "Mercury is toxic in all its forms. 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 [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply," reported HealthDay.
Wallinga noted that the public should be told about other potential mercury sources since, "The best mercury exposure is no exposure at all,” adding that, "Even at low levels, methylmercury can harm the developing brain. The last thing we should intentionally do is add to it," quoted Reuters. Wallinga the studies were based on 2005 samples, the most recent available, reported Reuters.
Instead of sugar, high-fructose corn syrup is used to sweeten a wide variety of foods. HealthDay pointed out that the sugar replacement can be found in breads, dressings and condiments, cereals, jams, yogurts, and breakfast bars, but it is also found in unlikely products such as luncheon meats and soups. Americans consume about 12 teaspoons of high-fructose corn syrup daily, said HealthDay; however, teens and other so-called “high consumers” can ingest up to 80 percent more than this.
In one study, researchers tested 55 popular, name-brand products in which high-fructose corn syrup was either listed as the first or second ingredient, said HealthDay News, which added that the findings were the result of two American studies conducted by the nonprofit Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. Of the products tested, said Wallinga, “We found about one out of three had mercury above the detection limit," quoted Reuters, noting that the team believes the mercury contamination occurred during production in plants utilizing mercury-grade caustic soda.
It seems, said HealthDay, mercury-contaminated caustic soda use is quite common in the manufacture of high-fructose corn syrup and occurs when mercury cells are used to produce the soda. "The bad news is that nobody knows whether or not their soda or snack food contains HFCS made from ingredients like caustic soda contaminated with mercury. The good news is that mercury-free HFCS ingredients exist. Food companies just need a good push to only use those ingredients," Wallinga said, reported HealthDay.
The other study, which was published in the current issue of Environmental Health, revealed “detectable” mercury levels in nearly half—nine of 20—of the commercial high-fructose corn syrup samples tested. Team member and former U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientist, Renee Dufault, said in a statement that she advised the FDA about her findings but the agency never followed up, reported Reuters.