FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEJanuary 26, 2009
Much High Fructose Corn Syrup Contaminated With Mercury,
New Study Finds Brand-Name Food Products Also Discovered to Contain Mercury
Minneapolis – Mercury was found in nearly 50 percent of tested samples of commercialhigh fructose corn syrup (HFCS), according to a new article published today in thescientific journal, Environmental Health. A separate study by the Institute for Agricultureand Trade Policy (IATP) detected mercury in nearly one-third of 55 popular brandnamefood and beverage products where HFCS is the first or second highest labeledingredient—including products by Quaker, Hershey’s, Kraft and Smucker’s.HFCS use has skyrocketed in recent decades as the sweetener has replaced sugar inmany processed foods. HFCS is found in sweetened beverages, breads, cereals, breakfastbars, lunch meats, yogurts, soups and condiments. On average, Americans consumeabout 12 teaspoons per day of HFCS. Consumption by teenagers and other highconsumers can be up to 80 percent above average levels.
Here is the pdf table of their findingshttp://www.healthobservatory.org/library.cfm?refID=105040
“Mercury is toxic in all its forms,” said IATP’s David Wallinga, M.D., and a co-author inboth studies. “Given how much high fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, itcould be a significant additional source of mercury never before considered. We arecalling for immediate changes by industry and the FDA to help stop this avoidablemercury contamination of the food supply.”
In the Environmental Health article, Dufault et al. found detectable levels of mercuryin nine of 20 samples of commercial HFCS. Dufault was working at the U.S. Food andDrug Administration when the tests were done in 2005. She and co-authors concludethat possible mercury contamination of food chemicals like HFCS was not commonknowledge within the food industry that frequently uses the sweetener. While the FDAhad evidence that commercial HFCS was contaminated with mercury four years ago,the agency did not inform consumers, help change industry practice or conduct additionaltesting.
For its report “Not So Sweet: Missing Mercury and High Fructose Corn Syrup,” IATPsent 55 brand-name foods and beverages containing HFCS as the first or second ingredientto a commercial laboratory to be tested for total mercury. Nearly one in threeproducts tested contained detectable mercury. Mercury was most prevalent in HFCScontainingdairy products, followed by dressings and condiments. Attached is the summarylist of the 55 products and their total mercury content.
In making HFCS, caustic soda is used, among other things, to separate corn starchfrom the corn kernel. For decades, HFCS has been made using mercury-grade causticsoda produced in industrial chlorine (chlor-alkali) plants. The use of mercury cells toproduce caustic soda can contaminate caustic soda, and ultimately HFCS, with mercury.
“The bad news is that nobody knows whether or not their soda or snack food containsHFCS made from ingredients like caustic soda contaminated with mercury,” said Dr.Wallinga. “The good news is that mercury-free HFCS ingredients exist. Food companiesjust need a good push to only use those ingredients.”
While most chlorine plants around the world have switched to newer, cleaner technologies, many still relyon the use of mercury cells. In 2005, 90 percent of chlorine production was mercury-free, but just 40percent of European production was mercury-free. Four U.S. chlor-alkali plants still rely on mercury celltechnology. In 2007, then-Senator Barack Obama introduced legislation to force the remaining chlor-alkaliplants to phase out mercury cell technology by 2012.
The Environmental Health article by Dufault et al. can be found at: www.ehjournal.net.“Not So Sweet: Missing Mercury and High Fructose Corn Syrup,” by David Wallinga, M.D., Janelle Sorensen, Pooja Mottl and Brian Yablon, M.D., can be found at: www.iatp.org.
IATP works locally and globally at the intersection of policy and practice to ensure fair and sustainablefood, farm and trade systems. www.iatp.org