Corn is used for fattening farm animals and high fructose (sugar) corn syrup is blamed for the chubby adolescent bodies that are now commonplace.
But beyond fat is the concern that high fructose corn syrup might be introducing unhealthy levels of mercury into the American diet.
In one study, published in Environmental Health, Renee DuFault, a former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientist, say she complained to the FDA about the detectable mercury levels she found in nine out of 20 samples of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). She says the agency did not follow up.
Dr. David Wallinga, of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy did follow up.
His nonprofit group purchased grocery store foods where high fructose corn syrup was the second ingredient – barbecue sauce, jam, yogurt, chocolate syrup, soda, for example – and found that about one-third of the 55 foods tested had mercury above the detection limit, he tells Reuters.
No mercury was found in the majority of beverages tested which is good news because sweetened drinks may be the biggest source of HFCS in our diets.
Quaker Oatmeal to Go had a total mercury of 350 ppt; Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauce by Heinz had 300. The group has a list of foods and their mercury levels on its web sites.
The Corn Refiners Association says in a statement, “This study appears to be based on outdated information of dubious significance.”
How the mercury would get into the food remains a mystery.
Mercury-grade caustic soda, also known as sodium hydroxide or lye, is common in industrial chlorine or chlor-alkali plants, which the Institute refers to as “an outdated 19th century technology that relies on the use of mercury.”
Wallinga speculates that mercury inadvertently got into the food at the plant, something the Corn refiners argue isn’t possible.
“Our industry has used mercury-free versions of the two re-agents mentioned in the study, hydrochloric acid and caustic soda, for several years,” said Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association.
Wallinga admits to Reuters that the samples taken for the study came from 2005.
The Institute says manufacturers should not buy mercury-grade caustic soda and the chlorine industry does not need to use mercury cell technology.
In fact, most chlorine plants around the world have switched to newer, cleaner technologies, but older mercury cell plant rival coal-fired power plants continue to be sources of mercury “leaked” to the environment.
The Institute writes that not only are consumers in the dark. HFCS manufacturers may not be aware they are buying ‘mercury-grade” caustic soda, nor are food producers purchasing HFCS to make a finished product.
Americans consume about 50 grams of high fructose corn syrup every day. The article says finding the source of the mercury is essential for children and sensitive people.
Mercury is a potent brain toxin that accumulates in seafood. It comes from coal-fired power plants, and dental offices among other sources. For the very young, whose brains are developing, there is no safe level of mercury. The metal is known to impair learning and reduce IQ. #