Corn Syrup Shown to Contain Mercury

Mercury – considered hazardous waste – has been steadily phased out of use in consumer products due to its toxicity.

Yet a new study shows that traces of this silvery metal have shown up in a common food sweetener. High fructose corn syrup – a known risk factor in type 2 diabetes – is used in a variety of consumer food products like soda, juices, candy, cough syrup, cereal and snack food (see for a more complete list) . Now this prevalently-used sweetener is showing signs of containing mercury, said peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health, published on January 26th.

It’s believed the mercury’s source is the caustic soda and hydrochloric acid solution used by manufacturers to transform corn into the food additive. A small number of plants mix this combination in electric vats of mercury. This has allowed some of the mercury to end up in the final product.

Manufacturers insist that their products are mercury-free. Yet of the 20 samples tested by researchers, nine tested positive for mercury.

Because Americans consume significant amounts of high fructose corn syrup in a variety of products daily, the possibility of even minute amounts of mercury contamination increases exponentially.

Elemental mercury – the type found in the corn syrup samples – has no set safe dosage, but

the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cautions an average size woman to limit her intake to 5.5 micrograms a day of methylmercury, the type found in fish. Researchers estimate that if this same sized woman regularly consumes corn syrup contaminated at 0.57 micrograms (the highest level found in the study), this could result in her ingesting five times the amount suggested by the EPA.

Most chlorine plants – who manufacture the caustic soda and hydrochloric acid – have already switched to mercury-free technology. However, the Chlorine Institute, a Washington, D.C. trade group, issued a statement saying, “”It is conceivable that measurable mercury content can be found in high-fructose corn syrup regardless of how it is processed.”

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