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In The News: Mercury In High Fructose Corn Syrup

Here’s some unpleasant news.

The Washington Post is reporting on two recent studies published in Environmental Health which found that “almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contained mercury, which was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first- or second-highest labeled ingredient.”

Ranges varied from 0.005 to 0.57 micrograms of mercury per gram of high fructose corn syrup.

Keep in mind that Environmental Protection Agency figures, for instance, consider 0.1 micrograms per kilogram of body weight to be the upper limit for safe intakes.

This means, then that a 140 pound adult (63.6 kilograms) should consume no more than 6.36 micrograms a day.

The problem here comes with the high amount of high fructose corn syrup consumed by the average child, teenager, and adult in the United States — 12 daily teaspoons on average.

Let’s do some math.

Twelve teaspoons of HFCS equal 48 grams.

If those 48 grams came from the sample with the highest amount of mercury, that totals 27 micrograms of mercury in a single day!

Two more things worth pointing out.

First, sodas were found not to have any mercury in them despite consisting of mainly water and high fructose corn syrup. Perhaps this is due to some processing step?

Second, controversy is arising due to rumblings that the lead author of one study allegedly alerted the Food & Drug Administration about her findings several years ago but, for reasons not known to anyone, these findings were reportedly not followed up on.

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy — which participated in both studies — is actively pushing for immediate changes in manufacturing that would not taint high fructose corn syrup with the infamous heavy metal.

Yet another bullet point for the ever-expanding “important issues in food safety” list…

And, more importantly, even more of a reason to limit the amount of processed, nutritionally inferior food (which is usually laden with added sugars, mainly in the form of high fructose corn syrup.)

PS: Thank you to reader Dennise O’Grady for providing me with the second link in this post.

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4 Comments

  1. Sarah said on January 28th, 2009

    Hii I love your blog I have a question maybe you can answer wasn’t sure how to get the question to you. I’m 23 years old weigh about 130-135 at 5’5′. I was in a really good place fitness wise about a year ago at 120-125 working out daily eating really mindfully, then some outside complications of stress and depression took over and I began binge eating to the point where in October I was weighing 160. So late October I finally began my road back to health. My problem now is I’m only eating about 900 calories a day because that’s how Ive been able to drop the 25 pounds in three months and working out 6x a week. Ive stopped losing weight and I’m scared to consume more calories and know that I cant take it any lower. Ive had eating disorder issues in the past so I fear my metabolism is a complete mess. How can I go about repairing it while losing weight? Hopefully you can address this question or topic on a upcoming radio show of yours! Thank YOU!!

  2. Andy Bellatti said on January 28th, 2009

    Hi Sarah,

    I am glad you enjoy reading Small Bites! Thank you for getting in touch.

    Your question goes beyond the scope of my expertise.

    The best thing you can do is find an eating disorders specialist in your area who can work with you to help you acquire healthy eating habits and explore how you handle emotions with food.

    Since you mention having eating disorders in the past (which tend to return at times high of stress), it would be best to speak to a professional about these issues.

    I wish you all the best.

  3. T said on January 28th, 2009

    Andy…Thanks for taking those numbers and hashing them out in a way that makes sense for adults (what they might consume daily) as well as for children (12 teaspoons! That seems ridiculous and such a health hazard.).

    Dennise

  4. Anonymous said on February 1st, 2009

    Having suffered from mercury poisoning 10 years ago, I still find it troubling and somewhat amusing that the FDA would say that there is such a thing as a “safe” level of mercury that can be consumed. FACT–mercury is more toxic to the human body than lead or arsenic ever thought about being. Question? Would you knowingly consume lead or arsenic? The answer why no one (including the FDA) is doing nothing about this issue is that so many products contain corn syrup and it would be too costly to stop the use. As with everything… Follow the money!

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