In case you need another reason to avoid corn syrup

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a very pervasive ingredient in american foods, may well be the lynchpin of our obesity epidemic. It doesn’t trigger satiety (feeling full) like regular sugar, so people eat more of it (and its empty calories), and it’s processed differently that normal sugar leading to higher triglycerides and fatty liver disease (also known as NASH or non-alcoholic steatohepatitis). In addition, it’s sweeter than sugar, so normally sweet things taste less sweet in comparison, triggering the dietary arms race of adding sweeteners to foods just so they taste sweet compared with everything else (have you noticed that “no-added sugar” fruit juice popsicles now have aspartame in them?). That the corn it’s made from is grown from frequently genetically modified stock and uses large amounts of fertilizers (mostly petroleum based) to grow just adds to the reasons to avoid it. Now, news just came out that adds another reason to the pile.
Environmental Health published an article (as did the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy) showing that 30% of the foods they tested with large amounts of HFCS had detectable levels of mercury in them. Mercury is, of course, a potent neurotoxin and not something you want in your diet, especially when you’re not exposing yourself to it for any good reason (since there’s no benefit to eating HFCS).
Why is there mercury in HFCS? Making HFCS uses numerous chemicals including chlor-alkali based sodium hypochlorite, hydrochloric acid, and caustic soda, all of which have mercury involved in their manufacture. Every year the plants that make these report that they end up with less mercury than they started with (including mercury from plant emissions) and that a substantial amount is “missing”: escaping the plant in the products they produce. So, when these chemicals with mercury are used in the manufacture of other products (like HFCS), some of the mercury ends up in them.
As usual, the industry trade group (the Corn Refiners Association) tried to muddy the waters about the article, claiming that the methods of making hydrochloric acid and caustic soda (notice they didn’t mention sodium hypochlorite) that involve mercury are outdated and mostly not used in the US any more. However, some is still produced in the US with mercury today and some is imported from countries with even less stringent laws than ours. So, despite the Corn Refiners Association’s protestations, this is still very much a current issue.