Mercury in High-Fructose Corn Syrup?

Lisa says: yet another reason to stay away from this stuff. Why gamble with your health?

Researchers Say 17 Products Tested Had Some Mercury; Industry Group Says Syrup Is Safe

By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 27, 2009 — Some foods and drinks rich in high-fructose corn syrup may contain detectable levels of mercury, a new report shows.

The report, published on the web site of the Minneapolis-based nonprofit Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), shows detectable levels of mercury in 17 out of 55 tested products rich in high-fructose corn syrup.

But the researchers aren’t telling people to avoid those products or other items containing high-fructose corn syrup, and they aren’t sure what form of mercury those products contained.

The Corn Refiners Association stands by high-fructose corn syrup, calling it “safe.”

Mercury and High-Fructose Corn Syrup
The new report comes from researchers including David Wallinga, MD, director of the IATP’s food and health program. They bought 55 products that list high-fructose corn syrup first or second on their list of ingredients, which means high-fructose corn syrup was a leading ingredient in those products.

Wallinga’s team sent samples of those products to a commercial lab, which checked the levels of total mercury in each sample.

“Overall, we found detectable mercury in 17 of 55 samples, or around 31%,” write Wallinga and colleagues.

Here is the list of those products:

Quaker Oatmeal to Go bars
Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauce
Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup
Kraft Original Barbecue Sauce
Nutri-Grain Strawberry Cereal Bars
Manwich Gold Sloppy Joe
Market Pantry Grape Jelly
Smucker’s Strawberry Jelly
Pop-Tarts Frosted Blueberry
Hunt’s Tomato Ketchup
Wish-Bone Western Sweet & Smooth Dressing
Coca-Cola Classic: no mercury found on a second test
Yoplait Strawberry Yogurt
Minute Maid Berry Punch
Yoo-hoo Chocolate Drink
Nesquik Chocolate Milk
Kemps Fat Free Chocolate Milk
Wallinga and colleagues caution that their list was “just a snapshot in time; we only tested one sample of each product. That clearly is not sufficient grounds to give definitive advice to consumers.”

Mercury exposure at high levels can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system. A form of mercury called methylmercury is particularly risky to a baby’s developing brain and nervous system, according to background information from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Wallinga points out that the lab only tested for total mercury levels, not methylmercury or other types of mercury. He also notes that the EPA has a “reference dose,” or upper limit, for methylmercury intake but not for other forms of mercury.

Where Did the Mercury Come From?
Wallinga’s report doesn’t prove that the mercury in the tested products came from high-fructose corn syrup, but “I’m hard pressed to say where else it would come from,” Wallinga tells WebMD.

Wallinga explains that mercury can be used to make caustic soda, which is one of the products used to make high-fructose corn syrup. That’s outdated technology; mercury isn’t needed to make caustic soda, notes Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association, in a statement emailed to WebMD.

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