Study Finds High-Fructose Corn Syrup Contains Mercury

As if it weren’t unhealthy enough…


“Study Finds High-Fructose Corn Syrup Contains Mercury”

MONDAY, Jan. 26 (HealthDay News) – 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.

“Mercury is toxic in all its forms. 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 immediate changes by industry and the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply,” the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy’s Dr. David Wallinga, a co-author of both studies, said in a prepared statement.

In the first study, published in current issue of Environmental Health, researchers found detectable levels of mercury in nine of 20 samples of commercial HFCS.

And in the second study, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), a non-profit watchdog group, found that nearly one in three of 55 brand-name foods contained mercury. The chemical was found most commonly in HFCS-containing dairy products, dressings and condiments.

But an organization representing the refiners is disputing the results published in Environmental Health.

“This study appears to be based on outdated information of dubious significance,” said Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association, in a statement. “Our industry has used mercury-free versions of the two re-agents mentioned in the study, hydrochloric acid and caustic soda, for several years. These mercury-free re-agents perform important functions, including adjusting pH balances.”

However, the IATP told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that four plants in Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio and West Virginia still use “mercury-cell” technology that can lead to contamination.

IATP’s Ben Lilliston also told HealthDay that the Environmental Health findings were based on information gathered by the FDA in 2005.

And the group’s own study, while not peer-reviewed, was based on products “bought off the shelf in the autumn of 2008,” Lilliston added.

The use of mercury-contaminated caustic soda in the production of HFCS is common. The contamination occurs when mercury cells are used to produce caustic soda.

“The bad news is that nobody knows whether or not their soda or snack food contains HFCS made from ingredients like caustic soda contaminated with mercury. The good news is that mercury-free HFCS ingredients exist. Food companies just need a good push to only use those ingredients,” Wallinga said in his prepared statement.

Given how much high-fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be a significant additional source of mercury never before considered.

I’ve read that it isn’t, actually. You’d have to eat ungodly amounts of HFCS before it would even remotely approach a problem.

I have no idea if the mercury is a real issue or not, but that blog is an industry schill.

Says who? The link you provide doesn’t, it rather documents that she is in fact quite respectable and qualified to make the claims she does. And unless you think she simply made up her figures, her latest blog entry quite clearly shows that mercury was only found in harmless trace amounts.

Studies show academic studies often contain trace amounts of mercury. More at 11!


Mercury seeps into our pores kind of like radiation. Report after the poisoned, mutated bastards at 11.

I like those corn-grower’s association commercials touting the benefits of HFCS.

“Hey, don’t eat that, it has Mercury in it.”


“You know what they say about Mercury, right?”

“No, what do they say about Mercury?”

dumbfounded silence

“Hey, gimmie some of that.”

An RN with a BS in biology and her own marketing consulting business? I wouldn’t call that particularly qualified and the marketing stuff smells funny.

But attacking the author isn’t really necessary when her arguments are so weak.

Of course, the first part of her article is an attack on the researchers:

Which is wrong. Environmental Health is a peer reviewed journal. You can’t just pay to publish.

Anyway, I don’t disagree with the premise that the media is overstating the dangers of the mercury in HFCS, but Sandy Szwarc is being a little excessive herself.

That’s a fine point and all, but average consumption means there are people eating more. If my 2 year old decides to drink a bottle of ketchup (and trust me she would do this if I didn’t get there in time), it’d be nice to know that she was also getting a dose of mercury.

The rest of her blog post basically tries to claim that the mercury in HFCS is just mercury that normally shows up in any food.

But it’s not.

Piece together the other bits of information:

  1. The study pointed to the caustic soda used in the production of HFCS, this was apparently created using mercury.
  2. The study was based on data from 2005.
  3. The corn grower’s association statement she linked to says: “Our industry has used mercury-free versions of the two reagents mentioned in the study, hydrochloric acid and caustic soda, for several years

This pretty much totally undermines the blog’s point. The mercury levels were seen as an issue by the corn industry even, now that the study has come out they are saying “well, we already fixed it”. Which may well be true, but it doesn’t make the study nonsense.

There is no reason whatsoever for HFCS to contain any mercury at all. Of course, there’s no reason for everyone to get hysterical either.

I am diabetic (genetic) from my mother’s side. I was officialy diagnosed in September of 2007. I dove into everything I could find around the issue and started looking very hard at my diet.

On the subject of High Fructose Corn Syrup, the one artical that I found that pushed me to get it as much out of my diet as possible is the below (which was an interview conducted in July of 2007)

The obesity epidemic (click the Show Transcript) with the main passage that caught my eye.

“No, actually it’s not the calories that are different it’s the fact that the only organ in your body that can take up fructose is your liver. Glucose, the standard sugar, can be taken up by every organ in the body, only 20% of glucose load ends up at your liver. So let’s take 120 calories of glucose, that’s two slices of white bread as an example, only 24 of those 120 calories will be metabolised by the liver, the rest of it will be metabolised by your muscles, by your brain, by your kidneys, by your heart etc. directly with no interference. Now let’s take 120 calories of orange juice. Same 120 calories but now 60 of those calories are going to be fructose because fructose is half of sucrose and sucrose is what’s in orange juice. So it’s going to be all the fructose, that’s 60 calories, plus 20% of the glucose, so that’s another 12 out of 60 – so in other words 72 out of the 120 calories will hit the liver, three times the substrate as when it was just glucose alone.”

Now, I have not done any extensive research; but since I was forced to label read, the amount of HFCS utlized is just amazing.

Now, I have not done any extensive research; but since I was forced to label read, the amount of HFCS utlized is just amazing.

That’s what lead my wife and I to start frequenting Whole Foods and the local farmers market as often as we can. HFCS is in -everything- at the regular grocery store.

I mean, I’m still OK with buying some vegetables there if need be and the meat seems alright in a pinch, but those are better served by local farmers.

Fructose and glucose are metabolized differently, but HFCS is only high fructose in comparison to regular corn syrup, not white sugar.

I feel like I end up quoting this every time this subject comes up, but there’s so much hysteria and misinformation out there on the subject… probably the biggest problem with HFCS is that it’s so cheap that it made sweet things cheaper and more readily available.

And IATP’s Ben Lilliston co-wrote A Genetically Engineered Foods: A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers. Interestingly, the IATP lists it in his profiles as just Genetically Engineered Foods: A Guide for Consumers. I wonder why they’d forget to include the scare-mongering portion… wonder, wonder, wonder.

We had a fructose thread 18 months ago about that study, Fargull. The main points to note are:

(1) HFCS is used so often in the U.S. because it’s a lot cheaper than sugar thanks to corn subsidies and sugar tariffs which drive up the price of cheap foreign sugar.

(2) There are three major blends of HFCS, based on the percentage of fructose in them: 90, 55, and 42. HFCS 90 is “raw” HFCS and is mixed with 100% glucose corn syrup to make HFCS 55 & HFCS 42. AFAIK HFCS 90 isn’t used directly in consumer goods.

(3) As Marged pointed out, HFCS 55 (commonly used in soda and other drinks) has about the same fructose & glucose as sucrose (table sugar), so HFCS 55 is not really any worse (or better) for you than regular sugar. HFCS 42 is mostly used in baked goods.

(4) Most folks agree that real sugar tastes better than HFCS, no matter what the HFCS industry tries to tell you. If you’re gonna eat something that’s bad for you anyway, then accept no substitutes!

Even more awesome! By the way, what’s wrong with the book? Is he a paid whore for Big Anti-Genetic Engineering?

Industry gets friendly coverage in the US by finding unqualified people with just enough credentials to be plausible to the layman, and indirectly paying them money to bury news outlets alive in flat-out lies. It’s a safe bet that pretty much anyone involved with Tech Central Station or the Competitive Enterprise Institute is a professional liar. See previous thread on how the was giving Phillip Morris and the like a pricing schedule to make up shit.

My question is why everything in the US contains corn syrup instead of good old fashioned cane sugar?

Because the government has made corn artificially cheap and cane sugar artificially expensive.

The best thing about Passover - real sugar Coke.

It isn’t everything, there are a lot of companies that are starting to phase it out. Orowheat/Arnold bread, for instance, no longer uses HFCS in their breads.