Posted by: Lawyer Sanders | March 25, 2009

Kentucky environmental attorney Sanders says corn refiners’ study conflict over whether high fructose corn syrup may be contaminated with mercury, but does not address the issue of mercury contamination in HFCS from caustic soda made in old mercury cell plants.

The Corn Refiners Association (CRA), the North American manufacturers of high fructose corn syrup (“HFCS”) recently published a study to contradict two recent reports alleging that mercury may be contaminating HFCS, which is an important and highly valuable ($$) food and beverage ingredient in our society. 


To counter adverse publicity about mercury in HFCS, CRA hired Eurofins Central Analytical Laboratory to test 119 samples of HFCS and the results were confirmed by a researcher at Duke University Medical Center.  According to CRA, Eurofins found no quantifiable mercury in any of the 119 samples when using a detection limit of two parts per billion.   However, CRA’s study does not definatively answer the question of whether HFCS made with cautic soda generated in older mercury cell plants may be contaminated with mercury.


Two prior studies, one of which is published in the journal Environmental Health and the other is by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) did find mercury in HFCS. According to IATP’s HFCS study, mercury was detected in nearly one-third of 55 brand name food and beverage products, where HFCS is the first or second highest labelled ingredient, including IATP claims products by Quaker, Hershey’s, Kraft and Smucker’s.


One of the authors of IATP’s study explained that HFCS is sometimes manufactured using caustic soda that comes from old chlorine plants using mercury cell technology.  Caustic soda from mercury cell chlorine plants may be contaminated with mercury.  That conclusion is not difficult to understand if you look at the old mercury cell technology plants used to make caustic soda.


Mercury cell plants produce chlorine by pumping a saltwater solution (brine) through a vat of mercury, or “mercury-cell,” that catalyzes an electrolytic chemical reaction. One of the by-products of making chlorine in this process, which dates back to the 1860s, is cautic soda.  Newer technologies that do not use mercury have been developed. Yet a number of plants around the world continue to use the unnecessary outdated technology. 


The links to the IATP’s study and the list of products contaminated with mercury is at:  




  1. I am trying to determine the BOd of Corn syrup. If you have that informaiton I would like to have the numbers. I am working o a water balance and loading rate of the sugar in the effluent from corn syrum manufacturers and bottling companies.

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