Lover’s of junk food (which is most of us at some time or other in our lives:_)) now have something new to worry about. While you were consuming that wonderful Hershey’s chocolate bar or Frappuccino or even sweetened yogurt you were also unwittingly consuming mercury. That’s right the potent neurotoxin which causes Mad Hatter’s Disease and is implicated in autism but is allowed to be placed in our mouths with “silver” fillings or in our body with vaccines has also been allowed in our food supply. Scientists found recently that nearly 50 percent of tested commercial samples of high fructose corn syrup contains mercury. The highest level of mercury found was .57 micrograms per gram of HFCS (high fructose corn syrup). On average, Americans consume about 12 teaspoons per day of HFCS. Consumption by teenagers and other high consumers can be up to 80 percent above that. The EPA says the upper limit of safety is 5.5 micrograms per day so the average American eating processed food is getting 5 times the upper limit of safe exposure to mercury with teenagers getting much more. Mercury can result in hair loss, muscle weakness with paralysis, depression, dramatic mood swings and memory loss. Methyl mercury is also easily passed through the placenta, and a study found that the mercury levels in maternal blood and umbilical cord blood were essentially the same. That means that women expecting to get pregnant need to avoid junk food as well as seafood in order to not pass mercury on to their children.

Actually the FDA had evidence as long as four years ago that commercial HFCS was contaminated by mercury but did not feel that they needed to notify the public or change industry practice. Mercury enters HFCS through caustic soda that is contaminated by being produced in industrial chorine plants that use mercury cells to produce the caustic soda. While most chlorine plants around the world have switched to a newer technologies, many still rely on the use of mercury cells. Four U.S. chlor-alkali plants still rely on mercury cell technology. In 2007, then-Senator Barack Obama introduced legislation to force the remaining chlor-alkali plants to phase out mercury cell technology by 2012.

The good news is that mercury free HFCS does exist, the bad news is that nobody knows which products contain it. Of course the really bad news for many of us is that we have been consuming HFCS all of our lives without a clue from our “regulatory “ agencies that it contains mercury. We have seen several people at our clinic who have high mercury levels but have never had a filling or consumed much seafood. Where they got the mercury has been a mystery which perhaps now is finding an answer. Since high fructose corn syrup has also been implicated in the obesity epidemic as well as in chronic inflammation it is a good idea to avoid all of it, which is easier said than done since it is hidden in many common foods, like ketchup. If you wish to avoid all high fructose corn syrup here are links to lists of foods and fast foods which contain it.