Sunday, August 9, 2009

One more reason to avoid processed foods...

It seems that daily, I learn something new about the horror that is today's food industry. I will not dedicate this article to the horrors of industrial livestock, exploitation of farmers through the use of non-fertile/patented GMO crops, or the absurd political influence of agribusiness. Instead, I will focus on one new abomination that I learned about today.

One way in which chemical companies create lye is to pump salts through vats of mercury, or through mercury membranes. A similar process is used to create caustic soda, and hydrochloric acid. As a result, traces of mercury remain in the final product. New plants have sprung up throughout the country to create more of these substances, as there has been an increased demand for them. Where is this extra demand coming from? Corn refiners. Apparently these chemicals are used to separate the corn starch from the kernel. I think you can see where this is leading.

In the January edition of Environmental Health (a peer reviewed academic journal), a study of samples of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) were analyzed for possible contamination with mercury. Of 20 samples tested, 9 contained detectable levels of mercury, with one sample as high as 0.570 μg mercury/g HFCS. Since the average American consumes 50 g/day of mercury, this would lead to an average daily exposure of over 25 μg of mercury per day from this source alone. The FDA has not investigated further, saying that the mercury was largely in its less easily absorbed elemental form, and not the more dangerous and more easily absorbed organic form. To date, there has been no explanation as to where that data comes from, as the FDA has not provided its own testing results, and the above article did not make this distinction. With the political power currently wielded by agribusiness corn companies and corn refiners, it is unlikely we will see any further action.

If increased obesity and risk of diabetes were not enough reason to keep you from HFCS, here is yet another reason. Mercury is a neurotoxin, and children and pregnant women especially should avoid any exposure to mercury whenever possible.

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