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High Fructose Corn Syrup a Newfound Source of Mercury

As you must know there has been a large debate over (HFCS) high fructose corn syrup consumption and obesity, especially in children. Today more than ever there are even more worries about high fructose corn syrup or (HFCS). Studies have shown that many of the product used by us nearly half of fifty-five brand name products, listing HFCS as a first or second ingredient, contained mercury above detectible levels. Very sensitive atomic fluorescence analysis and cold vapor atomic absorption spectrometry were used to determine detectable and total mercury levels. Snack bars, barbeque sauce, sloppy Joe mix, yogurt, and chocolate syrup contained higher levels than were found in some soda pop, strawberry jelly, catsup, and chocolate milk. Non-carbonated beverages did not have detectible levels. Quaker, Hunt’s, Manwich, Hershey’s, Smucker’s, Kraft, Nutri-Grain, and Yoplait are familiar brands with a product found to contain mercury.

The source of contamination is “mercury-grade” caustic soda that is used in producing HFCS from corn. This technology was first employed in 1884 and it is currently still used in eight U.S. plants. Most have switched to producing “membrane-grade” HFCS, which is mercury free, and it’s likely that the major soda and cola brands have converted. According to the Dufault study, there are 53 mercury cell plants in operation worldwide and HFCS is the predominant product produced at these sites. In most cases, U.S. food manufacturers buying HFCS from these sources are unaware it may contain appreciable amounts of mercury. Currently the U.S. government only regulates methyl mercury in fish and not in other foods, while several other governments regulate all forms of mercury in foodstuffs.(5)

Mercury is a neurotoxin that damages the heart, immune, and nervous systems.(6) The unborn are particularly vulnerable because mercury from their mother’s body passes through the placenta and can cause abnormal development, impaired learning ability, and lower I.Q. in the fetus. Breast milk can also be a source of mercury contamination.(7) There is no “safe” dose of mercury, and the Environmental Protection Agency has set a “reference” dose at 0.1 microgram/kilogram/day. For the average American woman weighing 55 kilograms, this translates into more than 5.5 micrograms/day. Government agencies have warned women of child bearing age to not consume more than one or two servings of fish per week. Smaller fish are safer to eat than larger predator fish such as walleye or pike.(8) No agency has taken up the case of mercury in HFCS. However, nutritionists have long advocated a healthy diet for pregnant and nursing mothers and discouraged them from eating “junk foods”, most of which contain HFCS. Parents have blamed mercury and other toxic metals for serious neurological conditions such as autism spectrum disorders.(9) Several sources of mercury contamination have been suspected, but until now, HFCS has not even been considered.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has estimated the total consumption of HFCS in 2007 was approximately 50 grams/day (12 teaspoons) per person. Detectible amounts of mercury in the Dufault study ranged up to 0.570 micrograms of mercury per gram of HFCS. Doing a little simple math, this equates to a total daily exposure of 28.5 micrograms of mercury per day.(4) Those with a high consumption of foods containing HFCS could easily be ingesting more than the average consumer.

According to government surveys, consumption of total fructose, including HFCS, among U.S. children and adults represents 10 percent of a 2,000 daily caloric intake. The use of HVCS has skyrocketed since the 1970’s and now seventy-five percent of total fructose intake comes from foods and beverages other than fruits and vegetables.(3) High fructose corn syrup, most of which is found in high caloric, nutrient depleted foods, is being heavily marketed to children via the Internet, television, and advertisements.(10) School vending machines and cafeterias contain many foods and beverages that have significant amounts of HFCS.(11) Children are increasingly being exposed to these offending foods, particularly as they move into high school.

Exposure to mercury from dental amalgams, the environment, and consumption of other HFCS containing foods such as sweetened beverages, breads, cereals, breakfast bars, lunch meats, yogurts, soups, and condiments, may compound the problem of mercury exposure. Shampoos and toothpaste may also contain HFCS, but not necessarily from mercury contaminated sources.

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