By Jackie Lombardo
Do you really know what’s in that corndog, pizza pocket, or fruit cocktail given to your child at school or to grandma at the nursing home? A new study in the October 2009 issue of Behavioral and Brain Functions Journal shows mercury contaminated, nutritionally deficient food can lead to deficiencies and metabolic problems that may affect learning. The authors write, “High fructose corn syrup has been shown to contain trace amounts of mercury...consumption can also lead to zinc loss...”.
So how does mercury get into food additives? It turns out that chlorine and caustic soda are made at chlor-alkali plants that use mercury cell membrane technology. And the leftovers from this process are then used to produce artificial food ingredients like citric acid, sodium benzoate, potassium benzoate, MSG, and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). But here’s the problem - every year, the chlor-alkali industry reports to the EPA that they’ve lost mercury and cannot account for where it’s gone. (Shoulder shrug.) So an inquisitive Environmental Health Officer at the Food and Drug Administration, Renee Default et al., conducted an investigation to find the missing mercury, and guess where she found it? Yup, some of that lost mercury contaminates our food made with those artificial food ingredients above. Increasingly, chlor-alkali plants are switching to mercury-free technology, but there’s no rush because there’s no federal law. As a result, mercury may still end up in our food supply.
So what’s the big deal? It’s just a little bit, right? Actually no, explains one of the studies authors, David Wallinga, M.D., "Given how much high fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be a significant additional source of mercury never before considered.” So how much is consumed? On average, Americans eat about 12 teaspoons per day of HFCS, and children and teenagers can eat up to 80 percent above that average. In addition, eating mercury for lunch is particularly bothersome for individuals with extra sensitivity, or the inability to effectively metabolize and eliminate mercury from their body – think older individuals and children, then think Alzheimer’s and Autism.
Corn sweeteners can be found in a large array of pre-packaged foods, mixes, and canned goods on grocery shelves and used in schools and nursing homes to make meals. For example: salad dressings, ketchup, cookies, pies, puddings, baby formula, breakfast bars, lunch meats, soups, frostings, fruit juices, gravies, cereals, baked goods, pizza mixes, baking powder, flavorings, yogurts, confectioner's sugar, ice creams, popsicles, hard candies, candy bars, soft drinks, and in the dextrose used in IV feeding solutions for premature infants in hospitals.
So really, what is in that sweetened, traditionally grown fruit in a can, lined with an epoxy-based enamel coating? Well, it may contain fruit, HFCS that may or may not be contaminated with mercury, pesticides, and bisphenol-A. And what do you get when you combine HFCS that may contain mercury, pesticides, and bisphenol-A in a persons body? No one’s really sure.
One last gross out… dried and macerated castor sac scent glands from beavers are used in food and beverages, particularly in vanilla flavorings. It may be time to get back into the kitchen.
What Can You Do?
Institutional lunches are more about cost, and less about nutrition. Corn is subsidized so it’s cheap, while nutritiously dense foods like an organic apple are more expensive. The goal is not perfection, but instead to lessen ingestion of mercury and other synthetic additive contaminants from food.
· Pack a lunch for your child.
· Choose foods that are real and produced by the earth, not made or altered in a manufacturing facility into an artificial food-like substance.
· Chose food from the bottom of the food chain and make it certified organic, minimizing pesticides, whenever you can.
· Shop the perimeter of the store for vegetables, eggs, fruit, nuts, seeds, and meat.
· Buy less and shop more frequently to avoid waste.
· Most of the time, skip going down the aisles into artificial food territory.
Mercury exposure, nutritional deficiencies and metabolic disruptions may affect learning in children
Mercury from chlor-alkali plants: measured concentrations in food product sugar
Dried and macerated castor sac scent glands from beavers are used in food and beverages
High Fructose Corn Syrup: A Recipe for Hypertension
American Society of Nephrology (ASN)