A recent study published in Environmental Health has allegedly identified mercury in nearly 50 percent of sampled commercial high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Renee Dufault, et al., “Mercury From Chlor-Alkali Plants: Measured Concentrations in Food Product Sugar,”
Environmental Health, January 2009. The study authors apparently detected mercury in nine of 20 HFCS samples from 2005, concluding that “it may be necessary to account for this source of mercury in the diet of children and sensitive populations.” In addition, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) has released a report that claims to have found mercury in one-third of 55 brand-name food and beverage products listing HFCS as the first or second ingredient.

Both publications were co-authored by the director of IATP’s Food and Health Program, David Wallinga, who reportedly linked the contamination to mercury-grade caustic soda used to separate corn starch from corn kernels during HFCS production. He speculated that the use of mercury cells to create caustic soda could potentially lead to tainted HFCS. “Mercury is toxic in all its forms,” stated Wallinga in
a January 26, 2009, IATP press release. “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.” See FoodNavigator-USA.com, January 28, 2009.

Meanwhile, the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) has challenged the Environmental Health study, claiming that the tests relied on outdated samples and information. “Our industry has used mercury-free versions of the two re-agents mentioned in the study, hydrochloric acid and caustic soda, for several years,” CRA President Audrae Erickson was quoted as saying. “For more than 150 years, wet corn millers have been perfecting the process of refining corn to make safe ingredients for the American food supply.” See CRA Press Release, January 26, 2009

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For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.

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