Study Finds High-Fructose Corn Syrup Contains Mercury

From the Washington Post

Wednesday, January 28, 2009; 12:00 AM

MONDAY, Jan. 26 (HealthDay News) — Almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contained mercury, which was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first- or second-highest labeled ingredient, according to two new U.S. studies.

HFCS has replaced sugar as the sweetener in many beverages and foods such as breads, cereals, breakfast bars, lunch meats, yogurts, soups and condiments. On average, Americans consume about 12 teaspoons per day of HFCS, but teens and other high consumers can take in 80 percent more HFCS than average.

“Mercury is toxic in all its forms. Given how much high-fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be a significant additional source of mercury never before considered. We are calling for immediate changes by industry and the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply,” the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy’s Dr. David Wallinga, a co-author of both studies, said in a prepared statement.

In the first study, published in current issue of Environmental Health, researchers found detectable levels of mercury in nine of 20 samples of commercial HFCS.

And in the second study, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), a non-profit watchdog group, found that nearly one in three of 55 brand-name foods contained mercury. The chemical was found most commonly in HFCS-containing dairy products, dressings and condiments.

But an organization representing the refiners is disputing the results published in Environmental Health.

“This study appears to be based on outdated information of dubious significance,” said Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association, in a statement. “Our industry has used mercury-free versions of the two re-agents mentioned in the study, hydrochloric acid and caustic soda, for several years. These mercury-free re-agents perform important functions, including adjusting pH balances.”

However, the IATP told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that four plants in Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio and West Virginia still use “mercury-cell” technology that can lead to contamination.

IATP’s Ben Lilliston also told HealthDay that the Environmental Health findings were based on information gathered by the FDA in 2005.

And the group’s own study, while not peer-reviewed, was based on products “bought off the shelf in the autumn of 2008,” Lilliston added.

The use of mercury-contaminated caustic soda in the production of HFCS is common. The contamination occurs when mercury cells are used to produce caustic soda.

“The bad news is that nobody knows whether or not their soda or snack food contains HFCS made from ingredients like caustic soda contaminated with mercury. The good news is that mercury-free HFCS ingredients exist. Food companies just need a good push to only use those ingredients,” Wallinga said in his prepared statement.

More information

The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry has more about mercury and health.

SOURCE: Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, news release, Jan. 26, 2009

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Two From Bilerico Filed by Dr. Jillian Weiss Regarding the Fight to Pass ENDA

Thank You, Senator Michael Bennet: Senate Movement on ENDA

Filed by: Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

September 25, 2009 10:30 AM

The office of Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado has confirmed that he has signed on as a co-sponsor of S1584, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009. 

Senator Bennet is the first Senator to co-sponsor since the Senate bill was introduced back at the beginning of August. This movement, which I hope is a signal of more Senators co-sponsoring soon, is very, very welcome indeed.

Senator Bennet is the 40th co-sponsor. There are, however, 9 more Senators who have privately confirmed their support for ENDA, and another 9 beyond that whose prior track records indicating a likelihood of support in the future. 60 are needed to overcome the expected filibuster.

It is important to thank our friends and supporters. I ask that you call or email Senator Bennet’s office and say “THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING ENDA.”

Here’s his number: 202-224-5852 (click here for email)

So how many votes do we have in the Senate, and how many more do we need and who will they come from? My calculations after the jump.

How Many Votes in the Senate?

Senator Bennet is the 40th co-sponsor.

Nine Senators have privately indicated that they will support ENDA, but have not signed on as co-sponsors. That makes 49 votes. These are:

1. Mark Begich (D-AK)
2. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
3. Max Baucus (D-MT)
4. Jon Tester (D-MT)
5. Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
6. Ben Nelson (D-NE),/i
7. Harry Reid (D-NV) [Why isn’t the “majority leader” a co-sponsor??]
8. Jim Webb (D-VA)
9. Mark Warner (D-VA)

You can find the sources of my information here.

Another nine have not made any indications, but are likely to support ENDA based on their track records, having co-sponsored other legislation that includes the language of sexual orientation and gender identity (except where noted). I am also including the newly-appointed Senator from Massachusetts, Paul G. Kirk, according to Bloomberg News, set to be announced this morning at 11 am by Governor Deval Patrick. That makes 58 votes.

These are:
1. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
2. Tom Carper (D-DE)
3. Ted Kaufman (D-DE)
4. Evan Bayh (D-IN)
5. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
6. Paul G. Kirk (D-MA)
7. Kay Hagan (D-NC)
8. Tim Johnson (D-SD)
9. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)

Where Will We Find Votes Number 59 and 60?

Here are the possibilities, some of which are longer shots than others.

1. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voted for the hate crimes bill
2. Mark Pryor (D-AR) – voted for the hate crimes bill
3. Bill Nelson (D-FL) – he generally is favorable to LGBT issues, but privately indicated in July that he was undecided
4 – George Lemieux (D-FL) – recently appointed, and the South Florida Blade openly wondered whether he might support the bill
5. Richard Lugar (D-IN) – reported to be in favor, but privately indicated in July that he has concerns
6. Kent Conrad (D-ND) – voted for the hate crimes bill
7. George Voinovich (R-OH) – previously co-sponsored a bill with sexual orientation and gender identity language, and has been reported to be in favor, but his office indicated he was undecided in July
8. Robert Byrd (D-WV) -voted for but did not co-sponsor the hate crimes bill in 2002; has recently been precluded from voting due to health issues

(Technical Note: These Senators voted for the hate crimes bill in the sense that they voted for cloture on the Republican filibuster to allow it to be added as an amendment to the as-yet unpassed Defense Authorization Act.)

We have months to go before we come up against a vote in the Senate, and the numbers will probably change a lot between now and then. To my mind, the key thing is to work on the swing Senators now. It’s very hard to reach and persuade a US Senator, if only because of the sheer volume of stuff that they get every day. That takes time, and can’t be done in the week before the vote. Now is the time. Click here for contact info.

Yesterday’s ENDA Hearing: Use It To Pass ENDA
Filed by: Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

September 24, 2009 11:30 AM

Yesterday morning, the House Committee on Education and Labor held a hearing on ENDA. It was very good for the bill, raising awareness in many different ways and among many different constituencies. (See Austen’s summary <> and our liveblog
<> , as well as the archived webcast and the witness testimony on the Committee’s website
<> .)

In and of itself, however, the hearing is not going to get the bill passed. Hearings have been held on previous versions of ENDA since 1994, and we still don’t have a law.

What will get the law passed are votes in Congress, and that is the only thing that will get them passed. You can use the hearing to help get those votes. Here’s how.

Keep in mind that the real fight is in the Senate. Yesterday’s hearing was held in the House. In the deluge of information overload that is DC, Senators don’t know about the hearing or what was said there. A lot was said there, and even those of us who watched it probably don’t remember a good deal of what happened.

We must get the Senate up to speed on what happened in yesterday’s hearing.

That is important not only for those Senators who are wavering, but also for those who strongly support ENDA. The most effective way to inform people in a body like the Senate is by their peers. Telling Senator Schumer about the hearing will mean that when it comes time for Senator Schumer to support ENDA, he’ll be able to point to a recent hearing in Congress for specific guidance. That’s very persuasive; a lot more than “it’s the right thing to do.”

What makes it the right thing to do? That’s the question that must be answered by our Senatorial allies.

So how do you educate a Senator about yesterday’s hearing? It’s no good sending them the webpage or the Youtube links and telling them to look at it. They won’t.

Instead, contact them and tell them that the hearing occurred and something specific about it.

Here’s some ideas — choose one:

1. Call your Senator’s office, and tell them about a specific witness who testified at the hearing. (Find your Senator here and call at 202-224-3121.)

Examples: At the hearing, Yale Law Professor William Eskridge testified about the state of the law and how it has failed to protect workers even where they are well-qualified for their jobs, including the professor himself.

At the hearing, Vandy Beth Glenn testified how, despite her many qualifications for her job in the Georgia statehouse, she was escorted from the building and fired when she told her boss that she was preparing for gender transition.

2. Send your Senator an email mentioning a specific fact brought out at the hearing. (Find your Senator’s email here  <> .)

Examples: At the hearing, Acting EEOC Director Stuart Ishimaru noted that many of the nation’s top businesses recognize that discrimination is bad for business, and 87% of Fortune 500 companies had implemented non-discrimination policies.

UCLA Williams Institute Director Brad Sears presented a study showing that one in five LGB public sector employees in the 2008 General Social Survey reported being discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation.

3. Write a letter to your Senator in the mail and talk about what a specific Member of the Committee said or asked.

Examples: At the hearing, Committee Chair Rep. George Miller said that ENDA is needed to cover 172 million Americans who are subject to legal employment discrimination, including those who work for state governments.

(Find your Senator’s mailing address here <> and call at 202-224-3121.)

I would resist the temptation to try to cram too many facts into one communication. You can always call them tomorrow or next week. The important thing is to keep up a steady rain, rather than a flood at the end. After all, the Senate vote is probably going to come up months from now, and there’s plenty of time. But, like studying for a big exam, you can’t do it all the night before. A little bit every day is the key to success.

If you want to see where we are in the Senate, look here <> .

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