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Dr. Gregory Pais, ND
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Environmental Health 2009, 8:2

If you needed another reason not to consume this junk sweetener, here it is. According to an article published January 26 2009 in the scientific journal Environmental Health, Mercury was found in 50% of tested samples of commercial high fructose corn syrup (HCFS). In a different study by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), Mercury was found in almost 33% of common products where HFCS is the first or second highest labeled ingredient. These include Quaker Oatmeal To Go, Yoplait strawberry yogurt, Nutri-Grain strawberry cereal bars, Pop-Tart Frosted blueberry, and others.

In the past 10-20 years HFCS has replaced sugar in many processed foods. It's found in breads, cereals, sweetened beverages, breakfast bars, lunch meats, yogurts, soups and condiments. It's estimated that Americans consume an average of about 12 teaspoons per day of HFCS. Consumption by children and other high consumers can be up to 22 teaspoons per day.

"Mercury is toxic in all its forms," said IATP's David Wallinga, M.D., and a co-author in both studies. "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 FDA to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply."

In the Environmental Health article, Dufault et al. found detectable levels of mercury in nine of 20 samples of commercial HFCS. Dufault was working at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration when the tests were done in 2005. While the FDA had evidence that commercial HFCS was contaminated with mercury four years ago, the agency did not inform consumers, help change industry practice or conduct additional testing.

For its report "Not So Sweet: Missing Mercury and High Fructose Corn Syrup," IATP sent 55 brand-name foods and beverages containing HFCS as the first or second ingredient to a commercial laboratory to be tested for total mercury. Mercury was most prevalent in HFCS containing dairy products, followed by dressings and condiments.

In making HFCS, caustic soda is used, among other things, to separate corn starch from the corn kernel. For decades, HFCS has been made using mercury-grade caustic soda produced in industrial chlorine (chlor-alkali) plants. The use of mercury cells to produce caustic soda can contaminate caustic soda, and ultimately HFCS, with mercury. Four U.S. chlor-alkali plants still rely on mercury cell technology. In 2007, then-Senator Barack Obama introduced legislation to force the remaining chlor-alkali plants to phase out mercury cell technology by 2012.

If you or your children consume commercial brands of these food categories, take a look at the ingredient list. If HFCS is present I recommend you switch brands to something that is HFCS free.


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