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Originally published January 27 2009

High Fructose Corn Syrup Contaminated with Toxic Mercury, Says Research (opinion)

by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor

(NaturalNews) New research published in Environmental Health and conducted in part by a scientist at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy has revealed that high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is contaminated with the toxic heavy metal mercury.

That means that many of the products using HFCS may also be contaminated with mercury. Carbonated sodas are sweetened with HFCS, as are candy bars, bread, salad dressings, pizza sauce, fruit drinks and thousands of other grocery items.

Mercury is so highly toxic that it causes severe neurological disorders. It can also result in the loss of hair, teeth and nails as well as muscle weakness, loss of kidney function, emotional mood swings and memory impairment. ( (P.S. Somebody please update this Wikipedia page with this latest research about HFCS being a source for mercury exposure, too.)

The highest level of contamination found in the study ( was 0.57 micrograms of mercury per gram of HFCS. The EPA says that an average-sized woman should consume no more than 5.5 micrograms per day of mercury, meaning that the average American consumer may be eating five times the upper safety limit of mercury every day due to high-fructose corn syrup consumption if they consume the foods tested in the study.

That's because the average American consumes 12 teaspoons of HFCS every day! So just by eating the standard American diet of processed foods, consumers are right now potentially exposing themselves to exceedingly high levels of mercury that far surpass the safety limits set by the EPA.

Buy groceries, get free mercury!

High-fructose corn syrup is used in almost everything, it seems. A second study conducted by David Wallinga, M.D., entitled "Not So Sweet: Missing Mercury and High Fructose Corn Syrup" ( reveals that nearly one-third of all grocery items sweetened with HFCS were contaminated with mercury.

Eating some sweetened yogurt? Mercury!

How about some salad dressing with HFCS? Mercury!

Want some ketchup on that burger? Mercury!

In fact, mercury is found in thousands of grocery products sold across the world right now. And it's no exaggeration to say that mainstream consumers of popular food items are likely suffering from widespread mercury poisoning (especially if you add in the mercury exposure they're getting from dental fillings).

Where does all the mercury come from?

Most people don't know how high-fructose corn syrup is really made. One of those processes is a bizarre chemical brew involving the creation of caustic soda by exposing raw materials to pools of electrified mercury in a large vat. Through this process, the caustic soda gets contaminated with mercury, and when corn kernels are exposed to this caustic soda to break them down, that contamination is passed through to the HFCS.

Another toxic chemical, glutaraldehyde, is also used in the production of HFCS. It's so toxic that consuming even a small amount of it can burn a hole in your stomach.

But don't worry: The Corn Refiners Association insists that HFCS is a "natural" ingredient, and their Chicago-based PR firm Weber Shandwick is now also claiming that HFCS has been declared "natural" by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It hasn't really, of course, but that doesn't stop the press releases from claiming it has. (If you think a liquid sugar processed with glutaraldehyde and contaminated with mercury is "natural," then you've been duped. There's nothing natural about a processed food ingredient made with toxic chemicals.)

A Weber Shandwick representative calls me every time I post an article about HFCS, by the way, usually with demands that I remove the entire article. I've invited the Corn Refiners Association to a phone interview to defend their position that HFCS doesn't cause diabetes or obesity, and to answer questions about whether HFCS is really "natural." So far, they have declined to be interviewed. It seems they don't want to face real questions from an honest journalist who refuses to be censored by powerful corporations.

One thing I've got to say about the Corn Refiners Association is that they have a well-funded PR machine running around the internet trying to make everybody remove stories that say anything negative about HFCS.

I've noticed that the Corn Refiners Association is a master at spinning the truth. For example, the president of the CRA, Audrae Erickson, said this in a statement responding to the mercury findings: "Our industry has used mercury-free versions of the two reagents mentioned in the study, hydrochloric acid and caustic soda, for several years."

Well sure, that's true. But what is Erickson NOT saying? She's not saying that ALL the HFCS is made without mercury. She just says that somewhere in the industry, somebody is using a mercury-free version of the caustic soda. That doesn't mean all the HFCS is mercury free, yet if you don't read her statement carefully, you might be misled into thinking that. Her statement, in fact, leaves open the possibility that 99% of all HFCS might still be manufactured using mercury.

Note carefully that Erickson does not say all HFCS sold in the U.S. is free from mercury. Instead, she makes a clever statement that results in most readers assuming that's what she means. The CRA is well known for using this kind of language spin tactics.

NaturalNews challenges the CRA to state that all HFCS is free from mercury (see below).

The HFCS fairy tale

The CRA isn't just in the business of pushing HFCS, by the way. It's also in the business of denial. For example: Virtually everyone who understands holistic nutrition agrees that HFCS promotes diabetes and obesity. But in much the same way that Big Tobacco executives once swore that "nicotine is not addictive," the Corn Refiners Association insists that high-fructose corn syrup does not promote diabetes or obesity.

So don't worry about the mercury in your HFCS. Or the other toxic chemicals used in the manufacturing process. That's all natural, we're supposed to believe. And high-fructose corn syrup is a healthy, wholesome, all-American sweetener grown without pesticides by poor Midwestern farmers who have given their lives and souls to create a sweeter, happier America.

Or at least that's the fairy tale version of the story. In reality, HFCS is created by corporate agriculture giants using toxic pesticides and herbicides on the crops who subject their corn to numerous toxic chemicals in the creation of this potentially mercury-contaminated processed sweetener that promotes tooth decay, obesity, diabetes and possibly even neurological disorders thanks to the mercury.

Yum. I can't wait to gobble down another chocolate candy bar sweetened with this stuff...

Politics at the FDA

There's an angle on this story that nobody is yet reporting. The lead author of this study, Renee Dufault, used to work for the FDA. In fact, she investigated the use of mercury at chlorine plants, where the manufacturing process results in the chlorine being contaminated with mercury. With chlorine being dumped into the public water supply, this is obviously a health concern.

Renee Dufault retired from the FDA last year. Only now, nearly a year after her retirement, has she dared to release her findings about mercury and high-fructose corn syrup.

Can you guess why? As an employee of the FDA, there's little question she would have been pressured into silence about the HFCS mercury contamination issue. A lot of powerful corporations that wield steady influence over the FDA would not be happy to see the truth come out about HFCS and mercury. So she waited until after retiring from the FDA to go public with these findings.

In fact, Reuters is now reporting that Dufault told the FDA about her findings, but the agency did nothing to act on them. Is anybody really surprised?

Lies about mercury

The Corn Refiners Association, predictably, is attacking these study results, claiming "This study appears to be based on outdated information of dubious significance..."

That's because the samples used in the study were taken in 2005. The CRA seems to imply they've cleaned up their act since then and are now using a mercury-free process (see statement from Erickson, above). But note that the CRA carefully avoids claiming all HFCS is free from mercury. Their official reply to the Environmental Health article is a perfect example of corporate doublespeak:

Specifically, note that the statement avoids promising that all HFCS meets the FDA's definition of the term "natural" or that all HFCS is free from mercury.

NaturalNews challenges the honesty of the Corn Refiners Association in making these seemingly deceptive statements. We request that if the CRA is really to be believed, it must publicly state that all HFCS sold in America today is free from mercury and that all HFCS meets the definition of "natural" as described by the FDA.

Don't hold your breath on that. I can already tell you the CRA will never make such statements because it knows they would be provably false. The truth is that last thing the CRA wants to make public, in my view. I think it's really in the business of creating the illusion of truth through clever P.R. tactics.

Did the CRA know about the mercury contamination of HFCS?

But let's give the CRA the benefit of the doubt for a minute here. Let's suppose that right up to 2005, HFCS was routinely contaminated with mercury, but now suddenly it's all mercury free.

Doesn't anybody wonder why didn't the CRA recall the mercury-contaminated HFCS when it became aware of the issue?

If all HFCS is now manufactured in a mercury-free process (which is highly doubtful, by the way), then that means at some point the CRA must have realized HFCS was contaminated with mercury and it made a decision to switch to a mercury-free process. Why was the public never warned about the pre-2006 mercury in HFCS? And why weren't foods containing HFCS recalled from store shelves due to their mercury content?

If the CRA's present-day statements are to be believed, it means the group must have been aware of the mercury contamination of HFCS through 2005 and yet it did nothing to make that fact known to the public.

So even if HFCS is free from mercury today, the CRA has a lot of explaining to do. The group either knew about the mercury contamination and did nothing to warn the public, or it didn't know about the mercury contamination, putting it in a position of remarkable ignorance about the safety of a product it has routinely claimed to be "safe" and "natural" for many years.

So which is it? Is the CRA run by liars, or just fools?

My offer for a phone interview with a CRA representative remains open. If anybody from the CRA wants to get on the phone with me and defend HFCS, the door is wide open. You know how to reach me.

Disclaimer: This article is an opinion piece. All statements are my own opinion and are obviously not agreed to by the CRA, which vigorously defends the safety of HFCS. Almost as if their jobs depended on it, come to think....

Sources for this story:

Environmental Health:

Washington Post:


Huffington Post:

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