3 comments on “There’s Mercury in High Fructose Corn Syrup, and the FDA Has Known for Years

  1. Mercury from chlor-alkali plants: measured concentrations in food product sugar
    Renee Dufault1*, Blaise LeBlanc2, Roseanne Schnoll3, Charles Cornett4, Laura Schweitzer4, David Wallinga5, Jane Hightower6, Lyn Patrick7 and Walter J Lukiw8

    * Corresponding author: Renee Dufault rdufault@uttc.edu

    Author Affiliations
    1 United Tribes Technical College, Bismarck, ND, USA
    2 Carl Hayden Bee Research Center, Tucson, AZ, USA
    3 Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences, Brooklyn College of CUNY, Brooklyn, NY, USA
    4 Department of Chemistry and Engineering Physics, University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Platteville, WI, USA
    5 Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Minneapolis, MN, USA
    6 Department of Internal Medicine, California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco, CA, USA
    7 Contributing Editor, Alternative Medicine Review, Durango, CO, USA
    8 Professor of Neuroscience and Ophthalmology, LSU Neuroscience Center. Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, LA, USA

    For all author emails, please log on.
    Environmental Health 2009, 8:2 doi:10.1186/1476-069X-8-2

    Published: 26 January 2009
    Mercury cell chlor-alkali products are used to produce thousands of other products including food ingredients such as citric acid, sodium benzoate, and high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup is used in food products to enhance shelf life. A pilot study was conducted to determine if high fructose corn syrup contains mercury, a toxic metal historically used as an anti-microbial. High fructose corn syrup samples were collected from three different manufacturers and analyzed for total mercury. The samples were found to contain levels of mercury ranging from below a detection limit of 0.005 to 0.570 micrograms mercury per gram of high fructose corn syrup. Average daily consumption of high fructose corn syrup is about 50 grams per person in the United States. With respect to total mercury exposure, it may be necessary to account for this source of mercury in the diet of children and sensitive populations.

  2. Mercury studies target HFCS

    Firm calls two new reports “flawed and misleading.”
    Jacqui Fatka

    TWO recent publications attempted to label high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as a carrier of high levels of mercury.
    In an article published Jan. 26 in the scientific journal Environmental Health, Dufault et al. found detectable levels of mercury in nine of 20 samples of commercial HFCS.

    Dufault was working at the U.S. Food & Drug Administration when the tests were done in 2005. She and co-authors concluded that possible mercury contamination of food chemicals like HFCS was not common knowledge within the food industry, which frequently uses the sweetener.

    A separate study by the Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy (IATP) detected mercury in nearly one-third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS was the first or second ingredient listed on the label.

    ChemRisk, a leading scientific consulting firm, was asked by the Corn Refiners Assn. to examine the two publications. The firm called the reports flawed and misleading.

    “To imply that there is a safety concern to consumers based on the findings presented is both incorrect and irresponsible,” the firm said. “By combining the results of a four-year-old sampling analysis of high-fructose corn syrup with a more recent testing of branded foods and beverages for total mercury, the IATP report fails to recognize basic scientific facts regarding mercury, ignores common dietary sources of mercury — an element that is widely present in our environment at low concentrations — and makes improper assumptions regarding the source of the mercury measured in various branded food products.”

    ChemRisk added that even if assuming that the mercury content found in the extremely limited sampling of foods and beverages was representative, the amounts are far lower than levels of concern set by government agencies.

    The firm noted that the report authors assumed that the total mercury they detected in a small sampling of consumer foods was primarily the result of HFCS, an assumption that has not been properly tested or validated. The recipes for the items studied may have had multiple sources of potential contamination.

    Outdated technology

    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 can contaminate the caustic soda and, ultimately, HFCS with mercury, according to IATP.

    However, the Corn Refiners Assn. challenged the relevance and accuracy of the journal article’s information, asserting that certain tests found measurable levels of mercury in HFCS.

    “This study appears to be based on outdated information of dubious significance. Our industry has used mercury-free versions of the two reagents mentioned in the study — hydrochloric acid and caustic soda — for several years. These mercury-free reagents perform important functions, including adjusting pH balances,” Corn Refiners president Audrae Erickson said. “For more than 150 years, corn wet millers have been perfecting the process of refining corn to make safe ingredients for the American food supply.”

    IATP recognized that 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% of chlorine production was mercury free, but just 40% of European production was mercury free.

    Four U.S. chlor-alkali plants still rely on mercury cell technology. In 2007, then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama introduced legislation to force the remaining chlor-alkali plants to phase out mercury cell technology by 2012.

  3. Pingback: Autism Linked to High-Fructose Corn Syrup « toolwielder

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