Saturday, February 07, 2009

Fine in Moderation?

The corn refiners are at it again. In an article titled "Are the Corn Refiners Hiding Behind Moderation?" filmmaker Curt Ellis, part of the team behind the documentary King Corn, informs readers that "a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health found detectable levels of mercury, a known neurotoxin, in nine of 20 samples of HFCS [high fructose corn syrup]. A second study by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy found that mercury appeared as a secret ingredient in nearly a third of 55 brand-name foods, most commonly in products that also contained HFCS."

Calling the study "outdated" (it was published Jan. '09), the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) has pumped additional money into their "Sweet Surprise" campaign that touts high fructose corn syrup as "safe in moderation."

As Ellis says in the article, the fact that "America’s food and beverage manufacturers keep caustic soda, acids, and genetically modified enzymes in their cupboards" left him "with the sad realization that so much of what we eat in the industrialized food economy was designed and produced in something much more like a laboratory than a kitchen. There’s something distinctly unappetizing about food ingredients whose labels advise you to wear goggles and gloves when you handle them."

Oh, and he and the team made another amusing spoof of the CRA commercial:

Full text of the Environmental Health article here. Full text of the IATP report here.


Anonymous said...

Ha! Hadn't seen that latest spoof ad. Hilarious!

But come on... even mercury is fine in moderation. (not!)

Kathleen Bauer said...

Yeah, I mean, like mind...

Anonymous said...

Do you know that they're not? Very few poisons are actually poisonous at all levels of exposure.

It's easier to think that all things that we consider harmful are always harmful, including smoking and DDT and mercury, but that's naive. Almost any substance can become a poison in the wrong quantities, even such innocuous substances as water. And even the most dangerous of the things can not only be safe, but beneficial, if used in moderation or with proper care, such as radiation.

It's worth remembering that the industry is no more or less objective than the alarmists who put out releases like this that raise as many questions as they answer. See Marion Nestle's response:

or my own:

Also, it's worth noting that because a study is published at a certain time does not even remotely mean the findings were from that same time. Only one of those two reports was actually scientific.

Kathleen Bauer said...

Thanks for the comment, extramsg.

If readers don't want to copy and paste, the Marion Nestle article is here and extramsg's is here.

It seems the point of Ellis' article is not that if you drink a can of soda you're as good as dead, but that, as with smoking and DDT (or GMOs or pesticides or anything else), people need to be able to make an informed choice. The CRA commercials, in which the character objecting to the HFCS content of the food, when confronted, simply sputters and offers no facts, as if there are none. And that's why the spoofs work, too.

As the Marion Nestle post points out about the studies, "if anything, these studies are a call for more research on heavy metal toxicology. In the meantime, let’s lobby for changing this process for making HFCS, but even more so for cleaning up coal-burning power plants that supply 40% of mercury in our environment."

Rebecca/CUpS said...

Great graphic!

No amount of mercury is a good amount. As I understand it, mercury accumulates and doesn't ever leave your body. Education is key here, as you mention. Having the knowledge of its effects, at least we can make a choice with our eyes open.

Kathleen Bauer said...

Thanks, Rebecca. I understand that chelation therapy can help eliminate some heavy metals like lead, mercury and arsenic. But if you don't know you've been exposed, you won't necessarily be screened for it. Like you said, it's about having the information.