Are We Slowly Being Poisoned By Mercury Found In High Fructose Corn Syrup?

Posted on Wednesday, April 8th, 2009 in Uncategorized
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Deceptive marketing, don’t be fooled. I was astounded to recently find out that in almost half of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) tested product samples contain mercury. High Fructose is being consumed quite frequently in North America though a number of products on the market today and can also commonly be labeled as Fructose-Glucose or Glucose-Fructose in Canada. Brands such as Coca Cola, 7-Up, A & W Root Beer, Minute Maid Berry Punch, Yoplait Yogurt, Quaker Oatmeal, Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars, Heinz Tomato Ketchup are only a few of many products containing HFCS. High Fructose sweeteners are also labeled as inulin, iso-glucose, dahlia syrup, tapioca syrup, glucose syrup, corn syrup, crystalline fructose, agave syrup, and fruit fructose. High Fructose Corn Syrup has become an increasingly common ingredient; which now amounts to 40% of added sweeteners found in the North American diet.

What is High Fructose Corn Syrup?

Sugar commonly known as white sugar or cane sugar is made from pure sucrose. The sucrose is made from the carbohydrates glucose and fructose, which attach to each other by forming a weak bond. Therefore, when we consume white sugar our bodies are able to break down the bond relatively easy becoming a molecule of glucose and a molecule of fructose. The process to produce High Fructose Corn Syrup on the other hand is made using two different enzymes. The process starts by using either membrane-grade or mercury–grade caustic soda to help separate the corn starch from the corn kernel. The cornstarch is then converted into corn syrup through the hydrolysis process. A weak hydrochloric acid is mixed with the wet starch where it is heated and pressurized to break down the starch molecules. A genetically modified enzyme is added, breaking the starch into shorter chains of sugar. The starch is then treated with another genetically modified enzyme, which converts a portion of the glucose into fructose, resulting in HFCS. This complex process must take place in chemical processing plants in order to produce the end result.

What started as natural healthy kernels of corn has been manipulated into a very thick, sweet substance composed of 55% fructose and 45% glucose. Although white sugar consists of 50% fructose and 50% glucose, it is the high fructose percentage that is related to other corn syrups and not other sugars.

How does mercury come into play?

The process to separate the corn starch from the corn kernel involves the use of caustic soda otherwise known as lye, sodium hypochlorite (bleach), and hydrochloric acid. Caustic soda has been produced in mercury cell chlor-alkali industrial plants for many years and becoming tainted with mercury residues. Mercury is highly volatile, resulting in contamination throughout the process.

There has been a constant rise in cancer and an increase in autism – is mercury a possible link? Over the past couple decade’s mercury levels elevated from the fish we eat, vaccines, dental fillings, and now in a large percent of foods consumed by many individuals today.

What are some health effects of mercury?

Mercury is toxic in all forms; there is no safe amount. Mercury can result in damage to many organ systems such as heart, immune and nervous system. The exposure of elevated methylmercury to the development of babies in the womb can cause abnormal brain development resulting in learning disabilities and reduced IQ. Mercury contamination in food can be transferred to the fetus through the placenta or to the infant from breast milk. High-fructose sweeteners can also contribute to type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cancer. Higher calorie consumption can also result in a rise of obesity. Fructose can also interfere with minerals the body uses such as copper, magnesium, iron, calcium and chromium and can lead to osteoporosis, insulin resistance, anemia and unhealthy connective tissue and arteries.

What can we do?

Mercury-free HFCS ingredients exist; food companies just need to discontinue using mercury-grade ingredients. Although most chlorine plants have switched to newer and cleaner technologies, there are still many plants that rely on the use of mercury cells. These chlor-alkali plants are being forced to phase out mercury cell technology by 2012. Consumers should be aware of the products we are consuming and avoid foods and beverages containing HFCS. This enforces my drive towards organic products and to support the organic farming industry. With our support, it will bring awareness to the manufacturing processes that unhealthy toxic ingredients are not acceptable. Don’t be fooled by product package marketing, read the ingredient list! This cookbook is great for kids and the whole family –Picky? Not Me, Mom!

Resources – Press Release from Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

Much High Fructose Corn Syrup Contaminated With Mercury, New Study Finds

Not So Sweet: Missing Mercury and HFCS

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