Monday, January 26, 2009

Many products with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) found to contain mercury

Posted By on Mon, Jan 26, 2009 at 10:02 PM

click to enlarge This surprise ain't too sweet.
  • This surprise ain't too sweet.

A recent study published by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy found that many popular food products containing high fructose corn syrup contain detectable levels of mercury. The list of products includes staples like Smucker's strawberry jelly, Hershey's chocolate syrup and blueberry Pop Tarts. The researchers tested 55 products and found that 36% contained enough mercury to be detected in the lab.

Why? Well, that gets a lot more complicated. Bear with me after the jump, and I'll try to sum up.

Some manufacturers of HFCS use mercury-grade caustic soda in the production process, which comes from outdated chlorine plants. Many have upgraded their technology, some have not. Mercury in this caustic soda finds its way into the final HFCS product, which then makes its way into your food.

You can blame the food manufacturers for not getting better provenance on their HFCS. You can blame the HFCS manufacturers who still use the mercury-tainted chemicals. Or, you can blame the FDA.

In 2005, an FDA investigator discovered the link between mercury-grade caustic soda and detectable mercury in commercial HFCS. Since then, the FDA has done nothing to either change or regulate the production of HFCS to remove mercury, or inform consumers about the risks.

Truth is, it's difficult to determine how damaging the mercury found in these products could be. The study makes a big leap to estimate that someone who ingests 50 grams of HFCS a day (the USDA-generated average) could be taking in up to 28.5ug of total mercury per day. That's a tad higher than the EPA's maximum recommended intake of 5.5ug per day for women of child-bearing age.

Of course, that number was set in relation to the methyl mercury found in fish. This HFCS mercury could be entirely different, according to the IATP study, for good or ill.

So, should you stop eating peanut butter and jelly, or refrain from dousing your ice cream in processed chocolate sauce. Nah, but for a variety of reasons that go much farther afield than this study, you should start reading labels and reduce your consumption of HFCS.

For more information, read the entire IATP study -- it's written for the layman, so you'll be able to follow it. Then take the time to write your Senator or Representative and ask for something to be done about it.

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