FDA Knew About Mercury in Corn Syrup — And Kept Silent

January 28, 2009

The Food and Drug Administration has known for years that high fructose corn syrup is often contaminated with toxic mercury — but did not inform or warn the public.

"There is no established safe dose for elemental mercury, the type discovered in corn syrup," wrote Michael Hawthorne, who had the story in the Chicago Tribune of January 27, 2009. "But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says an average-sized woman should limit her exposure to 5.5 micrograms a day of methylmercury, the kind found in fish. If that same woman regularly ate corn syrup contaminated at the highest level detected in the study — 0.57 micrograms per gram — the researchers estimated that she could end up consuming an amount of mercury that is five times higher than the EPA's safe dose."

But the FDA had the information as early as 2005, when one of its scientists co-authored a study finding the mercury in corn syrup. Despite this, the FDA allowed the corn industry to go forward with a campaign advertising corn syrup as "natural." That part of the story came out in the Huffington Post column of Leslie Hatfield Jan. 27.

The Corn Refiners Association is currently running a TV ad campaign attempting to deny negative statements about corn syrup.