High fructose corn syrup redux

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by Ben Lilliston | February 25, 2009 • A few weeks ago we published research on the presence of mercury in many common food products that list high fructose corn syrup as their first or second ingredient. The paper was released in conjunction with a peer-reviewed article that reported on testing by the Food and Drug Administration, which found that nearly 50 percent of HFCS tested contained mercury.

Think Forward is a blog written by staff of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy covering sustainability as it intersects with food, rural development, international trade, the environment and public health. The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy promotes resilient family farms, rural communities and ecosystems around the world through research and education, science and technology, and advocacy.

In an article last week, Grist’s Tom Philpott does a great job debunking efforts to discredit and downplay these findings by the Corn Refiners Association (aka ADM, Cargill, and so on) and the Food and Drug Administration.

As we outline in a short FAQ about the report, we believe the smart way forward is simple and straightforward:

Congress should enact legislation proposed by then Senator Barack Obama two years ago to phase out the use of mercury cell technology in U.S. chlorine plants.

Corn refining companies that produce high fructose corn syrup should demand that their suppliers of caustic soda do not use mercury cell technology.

The Food and Drug Administration should begin testing high fructose corn syrup for mercury and make those findings public.

In the larger context of trying to eliminate preventable exposures of mercury there is some hopeful news. Last week, 140 nations agreed to develop a legally binding international treaty to reduce the use of mercury. And for the first time in a long while, the U.S. was actually a leader in pushing for the global treaty. Eliminating mercury from high fructose corn syrup seems the least we can do.

Ben Lilliston

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