Study links HFCS and mercury; C.R.A. challenges

by Keith Nunes
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KANSAS CITY – An article published in the journal Environmental Health said mercury was found in tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). The Corn Refiners Association (C.R.A.) has challenged the accuracy of the study.

In the Environmental Health article, the authors state several chemicals are required to make HFCS, including caustic soda and hydrochloric acid, which have been shown to contain mercury. A pilot study was conducted in 2005 to determine if HFCS contains mercury.

High-fructose corn syrup samples were collected from three manufacturers and analyzed for total mercury. The samples were found to contain mercury levels ranging from below a detection limit of 0.005 micrograms to 0.570 micrograms of mercury per gram of HFCS.

The authors concluded that mercury contamination of food products as a result of the use of mercury-contaminated HFCS seems like a very real possibility. They recommended food products that contain a "significant amount of HFCS should be tested for mercury contamination in the end product and the public should be informed of any detections."

The C.R.A. challenged the accuracy of the Environmental Health article.

"This study appears to be based on outdated information of dubious significance," said Audrae Erickson, president of the C.R.A. "Our industry has used mercury-free versions of the two re-agents mentioned in the study, hydrochloric acid and caustic soda, for several years. These mercury-free re-agents perform important functions, including adjusting pH balances.

"For more than 150 years, corn wet millers have been perfecting the process of refining corn to make safe ingredients for the American food supply. It is important that Americans are provided accurate, science-based information. They should know that high-fructose corn syrup is safe. In 1983, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration formally listed high-fructose corn syrup as safe for use in food and reaffirmed that decision in 1996."

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