Mercury In High Fructose Corn Syrup

Just in case you needed another reason to throw out all of foods with high fructose corn syrup in them, a new study shows that mercury is found in the popular sweetener.

Here’s the link to the study.

The Institute For Agriculture and Trade Policy just announced on their website that high fructose corn syrup is contaminated with mercury.

Here’s the press release:

Press Release

January 26, 2009

Contact: Ben Lilliston, 612-870-3416,

Much High Fructose Corn Syrup Contaminated With Mercury, New Study Finds

Brand-Name Food Products Also Discovered to Contain Mercury

Minneapolis ñ Mercury was found in nearly 50 percent of tested samples of
commercial high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), according to a new article
published today in the scientific journal, Environmental Health. A separate
study by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) detected
mercury in nearly one-third of 55 popular brand- name food and beverage
products where HFCS is the first or second highest labeled
ingredientóincluding products by Quaker, Hersheyís, Kraft and Smuckerís.

HFCS use has skyrocketed in recent decades as the sweetener has replaced
sugar in many processed foods. HFCS is found in sweetened beverages, breads,
cereals, breakfast bars, lunch meats, yogurts, soups and condiments. On
average, Americans consume about 12 teaspoons per day of HFCS. Consumption
by teenagers and other high consumers can be up to 80 percent above average

“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

In the Environmental Health article, Dufault et al. found detectable levels
of mercury in nine of 20 samples of commercial HFCS. Dufault was working at
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration when the tests were done in 2005. She
and co-authors conclude that possible mercury contamination of food
chemicals like HFCS was not common knowledge within the food industry that
frequently uses the sweetener. 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.

For its report ìNot So Sweet: Missing Mercury and High Fructose Corn Syrup,î
IATP sent 55 brand-name foods and beverages containing HFCS as the first or
second ingredient to a commercial laboratory to be tested for total mercury.
Nearly one in three products tested contained detectable mercury. Mercury
was most prevalent in HFCS-containing dairy products, followed by dressings
and condiments. Attached is the summary list of the 55 products and their
total mercury content.

In making HFCS, caustic soda is used, among other things, to separate corn
starch from the corn kernel. For decades, HFCS has been made using
mercury-grade caustic soda produced in industrial chlorine (chlor-alkali)
plants. The use of mercury cells to produce caustic soda can contaminate
caustic soda, and ultimately HFCS, with mercury.

ìThe 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, said Dr. Wallinga. ìThe good news is that mercury-free HFCS
ingredients exist. Food companies just need a good push to only use those

While most chlorine plants around the world have switched to newer, cleaner
technologies, many still rely on the use of mercury cells. In 2005, 90
percent of chlorine production was mercury-free, but just 40 percent of
European production was mercury-free. Four U.S. chlor-alkali plants still
rely on mercury cell technology. In 2007, then-Senator Barack Obama
introduced legislation to force the remaining chlor-alkali plants to phase
out mercury cell technology by 2012.

The Environmental Health article by Dufault et al. can be found at:

ìNot So Sweet: Missing Mercury and High Fructose Corn Syrup,î by David
Wallinga, M.D., Janelle Sorensen, Pooja Mottl and Brian Yablon, M.D., can be
found at:

IATP works locally and globally at the intersection of policy and practice
to ensure fair and sustainable food, farm and trade systems.

Michael Bender, Director Mercury Policy Project/ Zero Mercury Working Group
1420 North Street Montpelier, VT USA 05602 Tel: +802-223-9000


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