High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is used in nearly all modern processed foods such as packet sauces, ketchup and bread.
Did you know that the unhealthy sugar alternative actually contains toxic heavy metal mercury?
The following excerpt is taken from Food Forensics, extracted from a near-final manuscript of the book:
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HFCS AND MERCURY CONTAMINATION
High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a highly processed sweetener made primarily from corn and found in a plethora of food and beverages on grocery store shelves. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service estimated in 2011 that the average consumer per capita consumes nearly 42 pounds of high fructose corn syrup per year. Not one, but two studies in 2009 found that HFCS commercially produced in America and American-bought HFCS products were tainted with mercury.
The first study published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health found that, of twenty samples collected and analyzed from three different manufacturers, nine, or 45 percent, came back tainted with mercury. The second study by watchdog group Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) purchased fifty-five food items from popular brands off grocery store shelves in the fall of 2008 — items in whichHFCS was the first or second principal ingredient — and detected mercury in nearly a third of them. The contamination may have been due to the fact that mercury cells are still used in the production of caustic soda, an ingredient used to make HFCS.
The HFCS mercury plot thickens, however. Online news outlet Grist reported that the lead researcher in the Environmental Health study, Renee Dufault, previously worked as an FDA researcher. Dufault had apparently turned over the information contained in her HFCS mercury study to the agency back in 2005, but the FDA reportedly sat on it and did nothing, so Dufault went public with it after she retired in 2008.
HOW BIG FOOD CORNERED THE MARKET WITH A LIQUID SWEETENER
Initial attempts to get corn syrup widely dispersed into the U.S. food supply in the 1970s didn’t really take off because sugar was so cheap and abundant at the time. However, this changed, as U.S.-imposed tariffs decreased sugar imports throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, making sugar significantly more expensive in America than in other parts of the world.
The surface explanation for these tariffs was to protect American sugar farmers; behind the scenes, however, Big Agra interests had lobbied for the policy to promote what would become a new source of sugar — derived from corn — which soon emerged as a popular commodity that was sold at a price significantly cheaper than cane sugar or beet sugar.
Archer Daniels Midland opened the first large-scale plant in 1978 (before they acquired the Clinton Corn Processing Company) to produce 90 percent HFCS and 55 percent HFCS. By January 1980, Coca-Cola began allowing high fructose corn syrup to be used as a sweetener at 50 percent levels with regular sugar; Pepsi Cola followed suit by 1983. By November 1984, both major soft drink brands had approved full sweetening with HFCS, and HFCS quickly captured 42 percent of the sweetener market. The rising dominance of HFCS allowed it to maintain commercial prices similar to sugar until the 1990s.
GOVERNMENT MONEY SUBSIDIZING CORN SYRUP
For the past several decades, the U.S. government has paid subsidies to American farmers to grow tons of corn (much of which — nearly 90 percent — is genetically modified) and shifted domestic agricultural policy to maximize corn crops. This made high-fructose corn syrup and other corn-derived processed ingredients much cheaper for industrial food manufacturers to use.
Today, HFCS is nearly ubiquitous on American grocery store shelves. It can be found in a wide range of items, including candy, ice cream, bread, chips, snacks, soups, soft drinks, fruit drinks and other beverages, condiments, jellies, deli meats, and much, much more.
Overall, Americans consume about fifty to sixty pounds of high fructose corn syrup per capita – an insane amount. HFCS has been linked in scientific research to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver and other contributors of bad health and early death.
As the biggest dietary source of fructose, HFCS also promotes insulin resistance and increasing uric acid levels, which contribute to metabolic dysfunction and type 2 diabetes. Further, researchers in 2008 found a correlation between high fructose consumption and liver scarring in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is present in nearly a third of American adults.
CORN REFINERS ASSOCIATION ATTEMPTS TO HOODWINK CONSUMERS
On top of lobbying efforts, the Corn Refiners Association, an industry organization of which Archer Daniels Midland a is a key member, launched the website sweetsurprise.com as a media relations ploy to debunk “myths” about HFCS and clarify “The Facts about High Fructose Corn Syrup.”
It also ran well-funded TV advertising starting in 2008 sticking up for the industry’s favorite sweetener and asserting that “sugar is sugar,” which prompted a lawsuit by sugar producers claiming false advertising in 2011. The FDA also demanded the corn industry stop using the term “corn sugar” without approval.
In 2012, the FDA rejected a petition filed by the Corn Refiners Association in 2010 to change the name of high-fructose corn syrup to “corn sugar” for the purposes of food labeling and advertising. The Corn Refiners Association claims that it wanted the name change to “educate consumers,” the majority of whom are “confused about HFCS.”