I really love the commercials from the Corn Refiners Association, extolling the “safety” of high-fructose corn syrup, which is “fine” in moderation. Really, are they fooling anyone? High-fructose corn syrup may have the same calories as sugar but it is anything but “natural,” despite the recent FDA ruling that it could be labeled as such.
But now, a study from the Instutite for Agriculture and Trade Policy suggests a link between HFCS and mercury. Apparently, chemicals, including lye (caustic soda), are involved in the producing of HFCS. Caustic soda is apparently made from chlorine and for a long time, chlorine production invovled mercury. (Augusta, Georgia has the dubious distinction of having one of the last four plants in the nation that still uses this mercury process). And, because of this, mercury is showing up in HFCS laced products.
It’s unfortunate that so many products on store shelves are full of this stuff. J gets irritated when he goes to the store with me and I have to pick out a loaf of bread because I take 10 minutes to read labels to find the ONE 100% whole grain (NOT enriched flour, yuck!) loaf that does NOT have HFCS. Forget about hamburger and hotdog buns, I’ve yet to find a supermarket variety that does not have it. My recent (but undocumented) interest and (hopeful) foray into bread making is a direct result of this dilemma. My point is, the stuff is everywhere – the only way to avoid it is to avoid processed foods, or at least read labels very carefully. (I have to buy organic ketchup now – do you know how big of a tool I feel like for buying organic fucking ketchup?) James, jellies, yogurt, soda, cereals (especially kids cereals), juices, processed snacks, peanut butter – often times HFCS laden (don’t let the “natural” on the label fool you, read the ingredients!) What can you do? Make as much stuff from scratch. Some things, like peanut butter are easy (whirl peanuts or nut of choice in food processor with sugar and salt to taste and voila! Peanut (or nut of choice) butter!). Read ingredient labels carefully.
Why does all this matter? Well, the dangers of mercury are pretty well documented. Some argue the scientific jury on HFCS itself (regardless of mercury content) is out. Look, HFCS is not a product that appears in nature – it is the result of a chemical process. It is widely used because it is a CHEAP substitute for sugar. (Although when corn prices spiked some producers looked to alternatives – Heinz tried to breed sweeter tomatoes). Around Passover time, taste test the Kosher, non-HFCS Coke-Cola (yellow cap on 2-liter bottles) and see the difference for yourself (unless you can source Coke-Cola bottled in Mexico the rest of the year you’re out of luck). As far as HFCS making us fatter and causing health problems, no comment. But I think my stance is easily deduced.
This is a kinda crappy way to kick off the weekend, and for that I apologize. I’ll try to think of something fun this afternoon (but don’t hold your breath). But by way of entertainment, please see the ad for HFCS below – I hope you find it as amusing as I do.