Findings: Everyday Food Sweetener Poses Mercury Contamination Risk

By Krisberg, Kim | The Nation's Health, April 2009 | Go to article overview

Findings: Everyday Food Sweetener Poses Mercury Contamination Risk


Krisberg, Kim, The Nation's Health


SOME popular supermarket foods containing the common sweetener high fructose corn syrup also contain mercury, according to new findings.

In a January report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, researchers detected mercury in almost one-third of 55 brand name food and beverage products in which the first or second labeled ingredient was high fructose corn syrup. Though most prevalent in the dairy products tested, mercury was also found in foods such as dressings, condiments, snack bars, strawberry jelly and chocolate syrup. No mercury was found in the majority of beverages tested. In a separate article published in the Jan. 26 issue of Environmental Health, researchers studied high fructose corn syrup samples from three manufacturers, finding levels of mercury ranging from below a detection limit of 0.005 micrograms to a detectable 0.570 micrograms mercury per gram of high fructose corn syrup. With the daily U.S. consumption of the sweetener at about 50 grams per person, the article said it "may be necessary to account for this source of mercury in the diet of children and sensitive populations."

"Mercury is toxic in all its forms," said David Wallinga, MD, a co-author of both the report and article and director of the Food and Health Program at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. "Given how much high fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be a significant additional source of mercury never before considered. We are calling for ... the Food and Drug Administration to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Mercury makes its way into high fructose corn syrup during the manufacturing process when mercury-grade caustic soda is added to separate the corn starch from the kernel. …

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