Mercury Found in High Fructose Corn Syrup (in many types of food for kids)

Most parents are trying to limit their kid’s consumption of high fructose corn syrup. We know it contains empty calories, and is bad for our kid’s teeth.

But mercury?

According to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, a nonprofit group based in Minneapolis, “A test of popular processed foods from some of the biggest names in the industry found trace amounts of mercury.”

It is important to note that trace amounts of mercury were found, much less than the amount found in seafood and fish. What is alarming, though, was this exposure to mercury was unknown in the overall picture of a child’s cumulative toxic exposures.

Some of the foods it was found in are “healthier” brands, and some are no surprise. Here are a few of foods mercury was found in (according to the study in the journal Environmental Health):

*Nutri-Grain Strawberry Cereal Bars (I love these)
*Quaker Oatmeal to go bars
*Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup
*Yoplait Strawberry yogurt
*Market Pantry Grape Jelly
*Coca-Cola (no surprise there)

These items were bought off the shelf in the fall of 2008.

According to an article in the Star Tribune, “The study concluded that the mercury came from food plants that use caustic soda laced with mercury to produce high fructose corn syrup for major food companies. The researchers cautioned that their study was limited. It tested 55 consumer items, finding mercury in one third of the samples ranging from 30 to 350 parts per trillion. A part per trillion is the rough equivalent of a drop of water in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools.”

So all the folks will get in line to say that the exposure is so small, is doesn’t matter, and that people are overreacting (like they did about the trace amounts of lead found in vitamins). In fact, in the Star Tribune story, the manufacturers lined up to explain why they thought the study was flawed, that the exposures were minuscule and thus still safe, or they simply asserted the quality of their products.

But I assert that ANY exposure to a toxin that is unnecessary should be eliminated. Period. There are just too many avenues for exposure in our food, environment and homes that we don’t know how they interact and react in a growing, developing and highly vulnerable child’s body.

In another article found on this issue in the Washington Post, cited that teens are particularly at risk for mercury exposure from high fructose corn syrup because they often consume large amounts of it. “On average, Americans consume about 12 teaspoons per day of HFCS, but teens and other high consumers can take in 80 percent more HFCS than average.

“Mercury is toxic in all its forms. 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 [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply,” the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy’s Dr. David Wallinga, a co-author of both studies, said in a prepared statement.”

It seems that mercury is a byproduct of a sort of production of the syrup that is outdated, used by some factories and not by others. So it is hard to predict what processed foods contain it, and what doesn’t.

The short of it? Eat less processed foods (which is better for us, anyway!), and call on the FDA to insist that foods containing mercury are not allowed on the market.

5 Responses to Mercury Found in High Fructose Corn Syrup (in many types of food for kids)

  1. Amy January 28, 2009 at 7:01 pm #

    As always I appreciate your thoughts — I had just read this on the Organic Consumers Web site — just amazing to me!

  2. shelley January 29, 2009 at 3:37 am #

    i read this too on OCA and glad you did a post about it. i’m relieved it is ‘trace’ amounts, but nonetheless, that is not any good either. i did text my husband for an emergency visit this afternoon to Whole Foods for new Rice Krispy cereal. My 2 year old eats it almost daily. He found some new snacks as well as bread for the growing girls in our home.

  3. Matthew January 30, 2009 at 11:57 am #


    I’d like to speak with you about this blog. I’ve been doing some research for my own site and would like to share a blog idea that I think you’ll find particularly interesting. Get back to me at your earliest convenience.


  4. EcoLabel Fundraising February 1, 2009 at 12:49 pm #

    Guess that’s more reason to focus on eating less processed foods and really focus on whole foods. We try to do our best at home with that. The packaging in a lot of processed foods is filling up our landfills too. Good info- thanks!


  5. Katy Farber February 2, 2009 at 12:15 am #

    Thanks for your comments, folks!

    Matt, shoot me an email at

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