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Another Reason to Avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup: Mercury

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.


Join The Conversation
whizkidforte whizkidforte 8 years
I don't eat (or in the case of soda) drink that much HFCS. My mother and I are fortunate that we both buy bread (usually whole grain, mind you) with none of that.
pixelhaze pixelhaze 8 years
I don't so much avoid HFCS, actually. It's in processed foods, which aren't good for you anyway, so if I'm gonna eat a bag of oreos it's bad in general, not just because of the HFCS. Like Spectra says, it's all about moderation. For other things, like bread, I buy fresh from the bakery anyway, not the grocery store, so it's better for you and tastes better too.
Spectra Spectra 8 years
It's probably not a huge problem unless you mainline HFCS 24 hours a day. I generally avoid processed foods, but if I do eat them and, heaven forbid, eat a little HFCS, I don't freak out about it. Everything in moderation, I say.
sunshinepointe sunshinepointe 8 years
HFCS is the devil and I go out of my way to avoid that and hydrogenated oils. This only reaffirms everything I believed in.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 8 years
I don't know why, but I'm so not bothered by this. I'll keep eating it, just like I still eat a couple of cans of tuna per week.
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
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