2010-2011 Mercury in Dried Tea, Soft Drinks and Corn Syrup

Executive Summary

The Food Safety Action Plan (FSAP) aims to modernize and enhance Canada's food safety system. As part of the FSAP enhanced surveillance initiative, targeted surveys are used to test various foods for specific hazards.

The main objectives of the 2010-11 Mercury Targeted Survey were to:

  • Establish a baseline of information on mercury residues in specific commodities.
  • Continue the sampling and analysis of dried tea and compare with results obtained from the 2009-10 survey to assess year-to-year variability.
  • Investigate the potential that products containing or manufactured using high fructose corn syrup could contain detectable levels of mercury.

A total of 386 samples were collected from 11 cities across Canada and analysed for 19 metal residues, most notably mercury. Samples consisted of dried tea, soft drinks and corn syrups.

Overall, 53% of the samples tested did not contain any detectable residues of mercury. Of the remaining 47%, dried tea had the highest prevalence of detectable mercury (87% of dried tea samples contained detectable levels of mercury) and also exhibited the highest concentration of mercury observed in any of the samples tested (0.023 ppm). Soft drinks and corn syrup samples had a much lower frequency of detectable residues of mercury (only 6% and 10% respectively), and also had much lower maximum concentrations of mercury detected (0.011 ppm and 0.0002 ppm respectively). There are currently no established mercury guidelines or tolerances for the commodities tested in this survey.

When the results of the dried tea samples from this year and previous years are compared, it was found that the maximum and average values of mercury detected were similar; however the percentage of samples with detectable levels of mercury were much higher in the current year's survey.

From the results of this survey, it is apparent that the prevalence and levels of mercury detected in soft drinks and corn syrups is exceedingly low, indicating that mercury is not of concern in the products tested.

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