High levels of poison have been found in one of the most common food sweeteners.
Researchers from the US’s Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) tested the levels of mercury in the high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) used as a sweetener in 55 American products. Dangerous levels were found in one product in three including in products made by Quaker and Kraft.
Because it is cheaper, easier to use and lasts longer than other sweeteners, HFCS use has increased greatly in recent years replacing sugar in many processed foods including fizzy drinks, breads, cereals, breakfast bars, meats, yogurts, soups and condiments. All the products tested were products in which HFCS was the first or second highest labeled ingredient.
Similar research published in the journal Environmental Health found mercury in 9 out of 20 products tested.
The IATP estimate that, on average, Americans consume about 12 teaspoons per day of HFCS with many teenagers consuming nearer 20.
The IATP’s David Wallinga said: ‘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 supply.’
The question is how is this contamination occuring? HFCS is, on the face of it, just fructose and glucose, a natural product and it is often marketed as such. Except that it is not. It is an industrial product created from corn starch using caustic soda. Caustic soda itself is often manufactured using mercury. No longer such a mystery.
The IATP accuse the Food and Drug Administration in the USA, where corn is subsidised, of knowing about the problem but doing nothing.
‘The bad news is that nobody knows whether or not their soda or snack food contains HFCS made from ingredients like caustic soda contaminated with mercury,’ said Dr Wallinga. ‘The good news is that mercury-free HFCS ingredients exist. Food companies just need a good push to only use those ingredients.’
HCFS is less widely-used in Europe and is more often called glucose-fructose syrup in the UK. Isoglucose is a similar product.