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April 2009 Issue

Is Mercury Lurking in High-Fructose Corn Syrup?

The Not-So-Sweet Findings. The mercury headlines resulted from two recent studies. One, from the nonprofit Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (ATP), found that about one-third of 55 brand-name foods and beverages sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) also contained tiny amounts of mercury. The other, in the January issue of Environmental Health, tested commercial HFCS samples and found that almost half contained mercury. Mercury accumulates in body tissues over time causing nerve and brain damage. But the two studies tested only for total mercury, not specific forms of the heavy metal. Though all forms are toxic, methylmercury—the kind found in seafood—is the most toxic, and the only one for which the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency have set limits. The total mercury levels found in the Environmental Health study were only 1/1,000 of the federal limits set for methylmercury.

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