Researchers Find Mercury in High Fructose Corn Syrup

a picture from inside a field of corn.High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a high processed substance used as a sweetener in several different processed foods and drinks. The additive has been receiving a lot of negative press recently, due to the links between HFCS and obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. As more and more people reject products containing high levels of HFCS, manufacturers have had to think fast. Remember those commercials a while back about how HFSC is “natural” and “healthy”? In fact, HSCS producers have recently changed the name to the simpler “fructose” in order to make consumers think it’s a healthier alternative.

However, a recent study by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy has found high levels of the toxic substance mercury in this “new” version of HFCS. In the study, researchers tested 55 popular name-brand products that list HFCS as their first or second ingredient. Nearly 1/3 of these food and drinks tested positive for mercury. This is highly alarming since Americans on average consume about 12 teaspoons per day of HFCS, with teens and other heavy users consuming nearly 80% more than average.

“Mercury is toxic in all its forms. Given how much high-fructose corn syrup children consume, 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,” the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy’s Dr. David Wallinga, co-author of the study.

The mercury contamination seems to be stemming from plants that produce caustic soda, which is made with mercury-cell technology. This practice is common, but the mercury can contaminate other items in the manufacturing process. Since high fructose corn syrup is in so many products, such as soda, juice, candy, and other snacks, consumers are playing a Russian Roulette of sorts when deciding eat or drink these products. The best option would be to avoid any products with HFCS or “fructose” as it is now called. 

In addition, there need to be stricter government standards in regards to food safety. It is a tough game, since the corn refiners that produce HFCS serve as a powerful lobby in Washington.

“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,” Dr. Wallinga said.

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