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Mercury found in high fructose corn syrup

February 6, 2009

(Even if you laugh in the face of diabetes and metabolic disorders, there is now another reason to avoid high fructose corn syrup.)

Last week the major news wires reported that samples of commercial high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)--an ingredient found in nearly every packaged product in the supermarket--were tainted with mercury. Reports were based on a recent Environmental Health study where researchers found that 9 out of 20 HFCS samples tested contained mercury.

When universty researchers attemped to acquire more samples for testing, the manufacturers refused.

With access to commercial grade HFCS blocked, one of the researchers later went on to conduct a second study: pulling 55 HFCS containing products from the supermarket shelves, ranging from Hershey's Chocolate Syrup and Nutri-Grain Strawberry Cereal Bars to Coca-Cola Classic and Yoplait Strawberry Yogurt. This second study, titled "Not So Sweet: Missing Mercury and High Fructose Corn Syrup", found that 1/3 of these 55 products, including the ones mentioned in the last sentence contained mercury. (A complete list of the tainted products is accessible via the USA Today website.)

The peer reviewed study published in Environmental Health notes the following:

With daily per capita consumption of HFCS in the US averaging about 50 grams and daily mercury intakes from HFCS ranging up to 28 ug, this potential source of mercury may exceed other major sources of mercury especially in high-end consumers of beverages sweetened with HFCS. [italics added]

For most people in the US, the major source of mercury is fish. In regards to mercury, the quote above implies that soda sweetened with HFCS may be more dangerous to ingest than fish. Think of the pregnancy guidelines regarding fish consumption: "Do not eat swordfish or mackeral", "Don't eat more than 12 ounces a week of low mercury fish", etc. If the results of the mercury study are repeated, Classic Coca-Cola and Pepsi should also be added to the pregnancy warning list.

The positive news: In addition to other environmental factors (pollution, pesticides, antibiotics, blah-blah-blah) this bit of mercury may add a piece to the puzzle in trying to understand the increasing "toxic load" on the modern human body, why 1 of 12 Americans suffer from autoimmune disorders, etc. . .

Side note: "Why is mercury in my (high fructose) corn syrup?"

In general, caustic soda, or sodium hyrdroxide, is used in the manufacturing process of HFCS. One of the methods to produce caustic soda involves the use of mercury. There have been concerns that the production process for sodium hyroxide releases mercury--it turns out that fears were realized. In this case the mercury ended up in the caustic soda and, in turn, tainted the HFCS.