The news on high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) hasn’t been the greatest. The artificial sweetener, used in processed foods and beverages, has been blamed for high rates of diabetes, obesity and heart disease in this country. Now,  two new studies report that mercury, a toxic chemical, has been found in HFCS.

In the first study, the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy found detectable levels of mercury in nine of 20 samples of commercial HFCS. In the second study, nearly one in three of 55 brand-name foods were found to contain the chemical, especially dairy products, condiments and dressings.

Although the researchers are unable to prove it, they believe that the mercury polluted the food during the manufacturing process, at plants that use mercury-contaminated caustic soda produced in industrial chlorine plants.

“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,” said David Wallinga, MD, co-author of both studies. “The good news is that mercury-free HFCS ingredients exist. Food companies just need a good push to only use those ingredients.”

Read RH’s “Sticky Situation: The Corn Syrup Controversy” to learn more about HFCS.