Mercury may lurk in high fructose corn syrup

In the Columbia Daily Tribune, dietitian and columnist Melinda Hemmelgarn discusses a 2005 study recently published in Environmental Health in which researchers found detectable levels of mercury in nine out of 20 samples of high fructose corn syrup.

Hemmelgarn says the neurotoxin get into high fructose corn syrup when “processors use mercury-grade caustic soda to separate corn starch from the corn kernel.” Most processing plants now use mercury-free technologies, she said, but consumers have no way to distinguish between syrup made with mercury and syrup made without it.

Renee Dufault, who directed the 2005 study, said her findings were ignored by the FDA and, until this January, unpublished by scientific journals. According to Dufault, the Corn Refiners Association called the study outdated, saying that they haven’t used mercury in syrup production for years.

Dufault responds by pointing to a 2008 small-scale regional study conducted by the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy that tested 55 consumer products containing significant amounts of high fructose corn syrup and found mercury in almost a third of them.

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