(NaturalNews) Nearly half of all commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) used in processed foods like soda pop, ketchup and candy is tainted with toxic mercury, according to a peer-reviewed study published in the journal Environmental Health. Among 20 samples of commercial HFCS tested for the heavy metal, nine tested positive, says the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), the consumer group that spearheaded the study.
Researchers from IATP tested HFCS as part of a larger investigation into the safety of this common sweetener, which is often used in place of table sugar. Since it is used in everything from salad dressing and barbecue sauce to commercially prepared breads and cereals, HFCS is a major component of millions of people's diets, having been quietly introduced into the U.S. food supply during the 1980s.
According to The Washington Post (WP), the average American consumes roughly 12 tablespoons of HFCS daily, while teenagers and other "high consumers" are believed to consume up to 80 percent more, or roughly 22 tablespoons, of the substance every single day. Based on the findings of the study, this means that mercury is being ingested at levels never before seen, presenting serious health risks that could cause permanent health damage.
"Mercury is toxic in all its forms," stated Dr. David Wallinga from IATP, co-author of the study. "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 [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply."
More than 30 percent of processed foods containing HFCS also contain toxic mercury
IATP also conducted a joint study on individual consumer products containing HFCS, revealing that about one-third of them contain mercury. The most common products containing mercury were dairy products, dressings and condiments such as ketchup that contain HFCS as their first or second ingredients.
A list of the 55 consumer products tested as part of the second study shows that the worst offender is Quaker Oatmeal to Go, which contained 350 parts per trillion (ppt) of mercury. Second on the list is Jack Daniel's Barbecue Sauce, manufactured by Heinz, at 300 ppt of mercury. Trailing these are Hershey's Chocolate Syrup at 257 ppt of mercury, Kraft Original Barbecue Sauce at 200 ppt of mercury and Nutri-Grain Strawberry Cereal Bars at 180 ppt of mercury.
The complete list of HFCS-containing products that tested positive for mercury can be downloaded as a PDF here: Iowa.SierraClub.org.
Some HFCS producers using outdated 'mercury-cell' technology that poisons end product
The reason why some HFCS contains mercury and other HFCS doesn't has to do with how the sugary product is manufactured. IATP told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that four HFCS plants in Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio and West Virginia still used a technology known as "mercury-cell" that can contaminate the end product.
According to IATP, the process involves adding mercury-grade caustic soda, as well as other ingredients, to a proprietary mix that ultimately separates corn starch from corn kernels. This mercury-tainted caustic soda is manufactured in industrial chlorine plants that use an outdated and highly toxic chlor-alkali process that can leave mercury residue in the final product.
"The bad news is that nobody knows whether or not their soda or snack food contains HFCS made from ingredients like caustic soda contaminated with mercury," added Dr. Wallinga. "The good news is that mercury-free HFCS ingredients exist. Food companies just need a good push to only use those ingredients."
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