As Pfizer swallowed Wyeth and Bank of America started belching up Merrill Lynch this week, you just might have missed the heartburn-inducing headline of the year: heavy metal has been found in our daily bread.
According to a report in Environmental Health by a former FDA scientist and whistleblower, the heavy metal mercury has found its way into your kitchen cupboards, your fridge, your mouths and your bellies. Mercury is "a potent neurological toxin" removed from vaccines due to concerns that it "is a danger to unborn children whose developing brains can be damaged if they are exposed to low dose micrograms exposures in the womb."
Talk about a "fly in your soup" kind of news!
You just might be thinking, "How in the world did mercury get into our food supply?"
Funny you should ask. According to the must-read report in Environmental Health, Mercury in Measured Concentrations in Food Products by Renee Dufault's team, mercury is used in thousands of food ingredients such as citric acid, sodium benzoate and high fructose corn syrup.
Little did we know!
According to the report, the EPA learned this in 2003 when it reported that "tons of mercury were missing." Shortly thereafter, an employee at the EPA tipped off someone at the FDA to investigate a corporation called "Vulcan Chemicals." The FDA's Environmental Health Officer (glad to know we have one) then decided to conduct an investigation of Vulcan Chemical's "mercury balance sheet" in an attempt to locate the missing neurological toxin.
Did John Grisham write this?! You couldn't make this stuff up!
Not only did they locate the missing neurological toxin (phew!), but Dufault's team learned that "mercury grade caustic soda and hydrochloric acid are primarily used by the high fructose corn syrup industry" to "stabilize food products and enhance product shelf life."
"Stabilize food products and enhance product shelf life"? Translation: mercury is good for business.
What about those commercials running on TV telling us that high fructose corn syrup is "natural"?
In case you missed them, "back in June, the Corn Refiners Association embarked on what the Wall Street Journal described as an 18-month, $20-30 million campaign to "rehabilitate the reputation of the longtime sweetener." The blitz includes full-page ads in more than a dozen newspapers and prime-time television spots."
I wonder if those actors read Dufault's report, which states that several chemicals are required to make HFCS, including caustic soda, hydrochloric acid, alha-amylase, gluco-amylase, isomerase, filter aid, powdered carbon, calcium chloride, and magnesium sulfate?
Heaven help us all.
Given the remarkable influence that the corn industry has on everything from bailouts, to ethanol policy, to lobbying efforts that were set in place in the 1970s with the informal public-private partnership between grain-processing giant Archer Daniels Midland and the federal government, I sure hope that Obama isn't too distracted by economic bailouts or the fact that Illinois-based ADM is the "supermarket to the world" with 2008 revenues of $70 billion to address this issue.
And even if he is distracted or only sees the inevitable industry-funded response, I hope that Michelle will give him one of those discerning looks, then cue Malia to load her dad's iPod with some heavy metal and have Sasha belt out "Pour Some Sugar On Me!" (Editor's Note: There has already been an industry response.)
Maybe it's time that "we put aside childish things" and get this "natural" sweetener out of our food supply like other developed countries have. Tell us what you think in the comments?!
If you are inclined to do something, log on to to Food Democracy Now and give Obama the heads up!
Robyn O'Brien is the founder of AllergyKids, which is working to help people protect the health of their families.
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