The Corn Refiners Association has been hard at work trying to change our perceptions about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), but they may have a new public relations battle on their hands. Two new US reports found mercury in both commercial samples of HFCS and products that listed high fructose corn syrup as the first or second ingredient.
Almost half the commercial samples of the corn sweetener tested positive for mercury, and almost a third of the tested food and beverage products contained detectable levels of the heavy metal as well. The products include beverages and foods manufactured by Quaker, Hershey's, Kraft, and Smucker's. The highest levels of mercury were detected in dairy beverages like chocolate milk, dressings, and condiments (BBQ sauce), followed by snacks and desserts, including cereal bars.
To see how mercury ended up in this corn-derived sweetener,
Mercury is a toxic heavy metal that can lead to organ and heart damage, as well as impair the immune and nervous systems. While high mercury levels have been associated with eating too much of certain kinds of fish, like in Jeremy Piven's case, finding mercury in HFCS is a bit startling for the average consumer. The mercury found in HFCS is a byproduct of the caustic soda used, among other applications, to separate the starch from the corn kernel. While many processing plants that manufacture this industrial soda have altered their methods to eliminate the use of mercury, four plants in the US still employ the old mercury-based technology.
If you already avoid HFCS, this is no time to stop. Keep reading labels and be sure to visit the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy to read their very detailed report on this matter.