High Fructose Corn Syrup Often Contains Mercury

There has been a lot of criticism heaved onto China, rightly so, over the use of melamine in foods. Perhaps we should save more of that outrage for closer to home. Three days ago, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy published their findings in association with the Environmental Health Journal study:

Mercury was found in over a third of processed food products tested, the source of the mercury is contaminated high fructose corn syrup.

One of the researchers, Renee Dufalt, led inquiry into the possibility that HFCS contained mercury while working with the FDA in 2005.

The FDA did nothing to inform consumers about the mercury in the last four years.

Two other very common food additives are also manufactured with mercury cell technology; citric acid and sodium benzoate. These additives have not yet been tested.

After the jump don’t miss the list of names to contact including who is making the tainted HFCS, who was head of the EPA at the time, where you can take action, and what you can do.

Why This is a Big Issue

The average consumer in the U.S. gets ten percent of his calories per day from high fructose corn syrup, nearly twelve teaspoons of HFCS a day per person on average is consumed. The ingredient is ubiquitous, present in nearly every non-organic, processed food item on the store shelf, and in nearly every food item available at a fast food restaurant. Even items you would never expect such as a “wholegrain” bread contain the substance.

Mercury is a heavy metal known to potentially damage organ systems including the heart, nervous and immune systems. The toxin can cross the placenta of a pregnant woman and poses a significant risk for abnormal brain development in the baby — abnormalities include impaired learning ability and reduced IQ. Young children are also particularly vulnerable.

Food products containing HFCS are frequently marketed to young children and are heavily consumed by this group. Products include baked goods, cereals, fast food, candy, dairy products like chocolate milk, jelly, salad dressings like ranch, juice. Nearly every processed food item on the shelf and fast food item on the menu, and in the vending machines in our schools.

Common brands that tested positive for mercury include; Quaker, Hunt’s, Manwich, Hershey’s, Smucker’s, Kraft, Nutri-Grain and Yoplait.

What We Can Do

Interestingly, President Obama introduced legislation in 2007 to end the use of mercury cell technology while still a senator. It’s time to ask him to reintroduce this bill. The technology is outdated and is completely unnecessary to use in manufacturing. This issue was avoidable. Write your representatives and President Obama and ask that this legislation be reintroduced and passed. The name of the bill is S. 1818 Missing Mercury in Manufacturing Monitoring and Mitigation Act.

It is also time to ask the new FDA administrators to be accountable. In China, perpetrators in the recent tainted milk issue were sentenced to death in two cases and life imprisonment for others. The least we could expect in our country should be legal action that holds the manufacturers and FDA administration accountable. Imagine what would happen if we imposed a death sentence here, or at least a civil suit.

If you would like names of who was running the EPA in 2005 when the agency knew about the mercury issue anddid nothing, here they are: Stephen Johnson and Micheal Leavitt.

There are four high fructose corn syrup plants in the U.S. that still use mercury cell technology. Here are their names and contact information. Go ahead, give them a call, email or letter and tell them what you think.

As consumers, we can also quit buying products containing HFCS. We can also call or write the manufacturers of these products and let them know we quit buying their product until we know it is safe. The list of manufacturers include (merely a partial list):

  • Quaker
  • Hunt’s
  • Manwich
  • Hershey’s
  • Smucker’s
  • Kraft
  • Nutri-Grain
  • Yoplait

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About the Author

Beth Bader is co-author of the book, The Cleaner Plate Club. She is a passionate "Local Food" advocate and an author for the Eat Local Challenge. She loves creating healthy, family-friendly, seasonal foods, family dinners, cooking for friends, and cooking with her child. You can her at The Expatriate's Kitchen.