Posted by: beyonddinner | March 25, 2009

mercury in high fructose corn syrup

I’ve read plenty of things that talk about how awful high fructose corn syrup is for health, but here’s a new hazard from an Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy press release:

Much High Fructose Corn Syrup Contaminated With Mercury, New Study Finds Brand-Name Food Products Also Discovered to Contain Mercury
Minneapolis – Mercury was found in nearly 50 percent of tested samples of commercial high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), according to a new article published today in the scientific journal, Environmental Health. A separate study by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) detected mercury in nearly one-third of 55 popular brandname food and beverage products where HFCS is the first or second highest labeled ingredient—including products by Quaker, Hershey’s, Kraft and Smucker’s.

HFCS use has skyrocketed in recent decades as the sweetener has replaced sugar in many processed foods. HFCS is found in sweetened beverages, breads, cereals, breakfast bars, lunch meats, yogurts, soups and condiments. On average, Americans consume about 12 teaspoons per day of HFCS. Consumption by teenagers and other high consumers can be up to 80 percent above average levels. …

Ingestion of mercury is bad news. This is added fuel for keeping it out of my family’s diet.



  1. I think Marion Nestle summed up the problem with this (out of any sort of context) study very well:

    “This seems like quite sensible advice, but how worried should we be about mercury in HFCS? I agree that mercury in any form is unlikely to be good, but I have no idea whether such low levels do measurable harm. For one thing, these studies did not compare the amounts of mercury found in HFCS to those typically found in foods that do not contain HFCS. My guess is that most foods contain low levels of mercury because mercury is prevalent in air, water, and soil, especially around coal-burning power plants. Also, soft drinks are the major sources of HFCS in American diets, but these were found to be relatively free of mercury. This is puzzling.”


  2. “An expert on mercury from Duke University Medical Center, Dr. Stopford, recently posted a statement that reviews lab results from independent, third-party testing that was conducted on high fructose corn syrup. The testing was very rigorous: third-party labs tested product from all 22 of the production facilities in the United States and Canada. The testing started in February and was completed this week.

    Dr. Stopford’s statement notes that there were no quantifiable levels of mercury found in high fructose corn syrup and that is does not appear to be a measureable contributor to mercury in foods.

    You can read the study here:

    Thanks for your consideration.

    Liz on behalf of the Corn Refiner’s Association”

  3. Two interesting comments. Foodbubbles – thanks for the reminder that I really need to be reading Marian Nestle’s blog! It’s now on my rss feed reader.

    In the end the results of mercury testing in HFCS don’t end up mattering to me and my family. We go to great lengths to ensure that we don’t ingest HFCS principally because it adds no nutrition to our diets and is likely to be harmful, particularly to a food addict like me.

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