Mercury in High-Fructose Corn Syrup?
Researchers Say 17 Products Tested Had Some Mercury; Industry Group Says Syrup Is Safe
Jan. 27, 2009 -- Some foods and drinks rich in high-fructose corn syrup may
contain detectable levels of mercury, a new report shows.
The report, published on the web site of the Minneapolis-based nonprofit
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), shows detectable levels of
mercury in 17 out of 55 tested products rich in high-fructose corn syrup.
But the researchers aren't telling people to avoid those products or other
items containing high-fructose corn syrup, and they aren't sure what form of
mercury those products contained.
The Corn Refiners Association stands by high-fructose corn syrup, calling it
Mercury and High-Fructose Corn Syrup
The new report comes from researchers including David Wallinga, MD, director
of the IATP's food and health program. They bought 55 products that list
high-fructose corn syrup first or second on their list of ingredients, which
means high-fructose corn syrup was a leading ingredient in those products.
Wallinga's team sent samples of those products to a commercial lab, which
checked the levels of total mercury in each sample.
"Overall, we found detectable mercury in 17 of 55 samples, or around
31%," write Wallinga and colleagues.
Here is the list of those products:
- Quaker Oatmeal to Go bars
- Jack Daniel's Barbecue Sauce
- Hershey's Chocolate Syrup
- Kraft Original Barbecue Sauce
- Nutri-Grain Strawberry Cereal Bars
- Manwich Gold Sloppy Joe
- Market Pantry Grape Jelly
- Smucker's Strawberry Jelly
- Pop-Tarts Frosted Blueberry
- Hunt's Tomato Ketchup
- Wish-Bone Western Sweet & Smooth Dressing
- Coca-Cola Classic: no mercury found on a second test
- Yoplait Strawberry Yogurt
- Minute Maid Berry Punch
- Yoo-hoo Chocolate Drink
- Nesquik Chocolate Milk
- Kemps Fat Free Chocolate Milk
Wallinga and colleagues caution that their list was "just a snapshot in
time; we only tested one sample of each product. That clearly is not sufficient
grounds to give definitive advice to consumers."
Mercury exposure at high levels can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs,
and immune system. A form of mercury called methylmercury is particularly risky
to a baby's developing brain and nervous system, according to background
information from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Wallinga points out that the lab only tested for total mercury levels, not
methylmercury or other types of mercury. He also notes that the EPA has a
"reference dose," or upper limit, for methylmercury intake but not for
other forms of mercury.
Where Did the Mercury Come From?
Wallinga's report doesn't prove that the mercury in the tested products came
from high-fructose corn syrup, but "I'm hard pressed to say where else it
would come from," Wallinga tells WebMD.
Wallinga explains that mercury can be used to make caustic soda, which is
one of the products used to make high-fructose corn syrup. That's outdated
technology; mercury isn't needed to make caustic soda, notes Audrae Erickson,
president of the Corn Refiners Association, in a statement emailed to