Mercury is a poison that accumulate in our bodies and, according to the World Health Organization, can damage nerve tissue, the digestive and immune systems, as well as lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes. A small amount occurs naturally in the environment, but more is added to the air, water and food from industrial smoke stacks. We’ve long worried about additional exposures from certain fish and amalgam dental fillings. But, who knew mercury is also added on purpose to some of our foods? We learned that shocker from my guest on last Saturday’s show, Renee Joy Dufault, PhD, the author of Unsafe at Any Meal: What the FDA Does Not Want You to Know About the Foods You Eat. She was an FDA researcher who was unfairly forbidden to continue documenting these threats in processed foods.
Traces of toxicants such as mercury and other heavy metals become problems for several reasons. 1. They accumulate over time. 2. Their harm is multiplied when other chemicals are also present. 3. They can block nutrients, including those needed for detoxification. 4. Not everyone’s chemistry is good at detoxifying anyway. 5. For obvious reasons, children and pregnant woman are potentially harmed the most. For example, mercury can cause calcium loss. Isn’t it scary that corn syrup or other potential sources of mercury contamination are found in most brands of infant formula?
You won’t see mercury listed on the nutrition facts panel because it slips into our foods through a back door hiding in artificial colors and production chemicals. Mercury is used to kill bacteria that might create enzymes that degrade certain ingredients. (If mercury kills bacteria, it certainly is not helping our intestinal probiotics!) Traces are left behind in ingredients like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), other corn sweeteners and vegetable oils to name a few. If we assume that HFCS and the other corn sweeteners have been clinically tested to prove they are safe to use…we’d be wrong!
This chart from Dr. Dufault’s book shows the types of corn sweeteners at risk of mercury contamination.
It is easy to see how Americans were eating almost 40 pounds of HFCS per year by 2004. It is used in a huge variety of grocery store products. Consumption had increased 8333% since 1970. Well, I was absolutely sure that I had none of that stuff in my house. Oops. I blushed when I found it in my husband’s pickle relish, most of his salad dressings, grape jelly, ketchup and in a bottle of root beer he’d been given for Father’s Day. There is also some maltodextrin in a couple of his favorite soups. (Dang…found one of my own mistakes—Hershey syrup that I use once in a blue moon over organic strawberries.)
Sigh, there is just no substitute for reading labels (and making hubby do that too).
Perhaps in a future blog I can cover some of the many other toxicants Dr. Dufault’s book covers such as other heavy metals, pesticides, fluoride and chlorine.