John and I were just talking the other day about whether HFCS is just bad for you because it is so high in sugar, or whether it is also bad because it is concentrating toxins from the (cheapest) growing and processing methods (read, most toxic...). I get to work today and see the following email from Kathryn from the Green Fork Blog...
FDA Has Known for Years of Mercury in High Fructose Corn Syrup (EatWellBlog)
by Nathan Shedroff - Tuesday, 27 January 2009, 09:45 PM
Our Melamine: There's Mercury in High Fructose Corn Syrup, and the FDA Has
Known for Years
by Leslie [links at url]
Maybe Jeremy Piven didn't get mercury poisoning from fish at all — according
to the results of this new study released by the Institute for Agriculture
and Trace Policy (IATP), the actor may well have been sickened by soda or
candy or anything that contains high fructose corn syrup, which, if you eat
processed food in this country means, well, just about anything.
Foodies and nutritionists alike have been griping about high fructose corn
syrup for years, and the industry has responded with an "astroturf" campaign
and a level of secrecy generally reserved for the military officials or
secret societies (see Corn Refiners' Association president Audrae Erickson's
stonewalling performance in King Corn).
Of course, I wouldn't want to show my hand either, if the making of my
product could be described as undertaking a small "Manhattan Project" (see
eye-glazing production info here). But as it turns out, the HFCS industry
has been hiding some major skeletons in its closet — according to the IATP
study (pdf), over 30% of products containing the substance tested positive
What makes this news truly shocking is not just that the manufacturers of
high fructose corn syrup would put consumers' health at risk, but that the
US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) knew about the mercury in the syrup
and has been sitting on this information since 2005.
Here's the connection, according to the IATP press release (pdf) announcing
the study: The IATP study comes on the heels of another study, conducted in
2005 but only recently published by the scientific journal, Environmental
Health, which revealed that nearly 50 percent of commercial HFCS samples
tested positive for the heavy metal. Renee Dufault, who was working for the
FDA at the time, was among the 2005 study's authors.
Here's how the mercury gets in there, according to Janet at the Ethicurean:
How did the heavy metal get in there? In making HFCS — that "natural"
sweetener, as the Corn Refiners Associaton likes to call it — caustic soda
is one ingredient used to separate corn starch from the corn kernel.
Apparently most caustic soda for years has been produced in industrial
chlorine (chlor-alkali) plants, where it can be contaminated with mercury
that it passes on to the HFCS, and then to consumers.
And here's more from the press release:
"While the FDA had evidence that commercial HFCS was contaminated with
mercury four years ago, the agency did not inform consumers, help change
industry practice or conduct additional testing."
And on why it matters:
"Mercury is toxic in all its forms," said IATP's David Wallinga, M.D., and a
co-author in both studies. "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 FDA to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food
In China, heads might roll over a scandal like this one, at least if the
country received global attention for its allowing corrupt health officials'
greasy palms come before, um, public health.
Of course, in this country, Dufault's neck is safe. But what about the
health of American consumers? Let's see the Corn Refiner's Association try
to spin this one.