Toxic Mercury Found in Most US Corn Syrup
Candy, snacks, sodas and more - high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) can be found in many mainstream products lining the shelves of grocery stores everywhere. Two recent reports, one in the current issue of Environmental Health and another by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), have confirmed the presence of mercury in HFCS and products that use HFCS.
Almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contained mercury, which was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first- or second-highest labeled ingredient, according to two new U.S. studies.
HFCS has replaced sugar as the sweetener in many beverages and foods such as breads, cereals, breakfast bars, lunch meats, yogurts, soups and condiments. On average, Americans consume about 12 teaspoons per day of HFCS, but teens and other high consumers can take in 80 percent more HFCS than average.
Another reason to opt for fresh, homemade meals rather than the questionable store-bought stuff?
The products include beverages and foods manufactured by Quaker, Hershey's, Kraft, and Smucker's. The highest levels of mercury were detected in dairy beverages like chocolate milk, dressings, and condiments (BBQ sauce), followed by snacks and desserts, including cereal bars.
So how, exactly, did a toxin like mercury end up in the food chain?
Mercury is a toxic heavy metal that can lead to organ and heart damage, as well as impair the immune and nervous systems. While high mercury levels have been associated with eating too much of certain kinds of fish, like in Jeremy Piven's case, finding mercury in HFCS is a bit startling for the average consumer. The mercury found in HFCS is a byproduct of the caustic soda used, among other applications, to separate the starch from the corn kernel. While many processing plants that manufacture this industrial soda have altered their methods to eliminate the use of mercury, four plants in the US still employ the old mercury-based technology.
Food processors and the corn syrup industry group attacked the findings as flawed and outdated, but the researchers said it was important for people to know about any potential sources of the toxic metal in their food.
While the technology is there to use more modern methods, it is up to companies to increase their standards. Mercury in HFCS is simply not acceptable, especially when considering children are often the ones ingesting it.
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Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States