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Dissemination of misinformation about MSG
The Glutamate Association has disseminated masses of misinformation designed to suppress reports of adverse or toxic reactions, and to convince consumers that monosodium glutamate is safe.
Some of their information is based on distortion of fact. For example, the statement that monosodium glutamate has been used in the orient for more than 2,000 years, or the statement that the glutamic acid in monosodium glutamate (a manufactured product that invariably contains D-glutamic acid and pyroglutamic acid as well as L-glutamic acid) is chemically identical to the glutamic acid found in unadulterated protein (which is composed of L-glutamic acid, only). One of their favorites over time has been the assertion that "other authoritative bodies" have found MSG to be safe. In general, those "other authoritative bodies" have read the FDA's summaries concluding that MSG is safe, or have received selected data provided to them by The Glutamate Association and have called that their data. When questioned, for example, Hellen Keller International, one of the "authoritative bodies," was not at all pleased to hear that their name was being used in this way. They had not been aware of the fact that monosodium glutamate might have toxic potential. Hellen Keller International was supplementing monosodium glutamate, a widely used food additive, with vitamin A in Indonesia to counteract xerophthalmia, an eye disease caused by lack of vitamin A. (National Food Review, 1987) They did not consider that to be an endorsement of the safety of MSG (Hellen Keller International, personal telephone communication, n.d.).
Half-truths also constitute misinformation. When The Glutamate Association's Richard Cristol wrote to FASEB on April 9, 1993 that researchers had received no funding from The Glutamate Association, he didn't rule out receipt of funding from the IGTC, Ajinomoto, Campbells or other members of the glutamate industry. On page 5 of a brochure titled "Sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami,” the statement is made that "...researchers confirmed that glutamate had an L-configuration." (Umami Information Center, n.d.) It was not, however, made clear that when glutamate is generated through a manufacturing process, the glutamate will contain D-glutamate as well as L-glutamate; that pyroglutamic acid will invariably accompany manufacture; and that under certain circumstances, carcinogenic substances will also be generated.
The balance of the information disseminated by the glutamate industry has been based on conclusions drawn from their badly flawed studies.
The special case of Umami: the alleged fifth basic taste
In the year 2000, Ajinomoto was attempting to establish that there exists a unique taste, a fifth basic taste, associated with monosodium glutamate. Today (2010) evidence of their success in generating public acceptance of the concept that umami (the taste of monosodium glutamate) is a fifth basic taste can be seen in sections of food encyclopedias (often written by Ajinomoto) and in references made by the culinary industry and the media.
Review of the scientific literature would suggest that only those with research funded by Ajinomoto and friends, or those in the employ of Ajinomoto, are interested in proving that umami is a fifth taste sensation. That, in and of itself, would cast some doubt on the validity of the concept that umami is a basic taste. Even greater skepticism about the identification of umami as a fifth taste should be generated by reports from MSG-sensitive consumers who, by and large, claim that they can not detect a “taste of umami” associated with ingestion of monosodium glutamate or any of the products that contain processed free glutamic acid (MSG). If monosodium glutamate (and other MSG-containing ingredients) had a unique taste, people who were sensitive to the substance, who claim to want to avoid it, would be highly motivated to identify that taste and thereby avoid ingesting MSG -- which they claim they are not able to do.
It is our considered opinion that the concept of umami has been developed in an effort to legitimize the use of monosodium glutamate in food.
Who disseminates misinformation for the glutamate industry?
Ajinomoto, The International Glutamate Technical Committee, European Food Information Council , The Glutamate Association, The International Glutamate Information Service, the Umami Information Center (UIC), established in 1982, with the support of the Umami Manufacturer's Association of Japan, the Australian Glutamate Information Service, and the Australia Umami Information Center, are now pieces of Ajinomoto’s basic organization. The International Food Information Service (IFIC) has been one of their primary public relations firms for years. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) works actively on their behalf, and the other health related government agencies (USDA, EPA, NIH, and CDC) disseminate (or do not challenge) glutamate industry misinformation. Interesting to note is the fact that the International Glutamate Technical Committee (IGTC), the group that designed and implemented Ajinomoto’s badly flawed research protocols, and the Comite des Fabricants d'Acide Glutamique de la CEE [Committee of Glutamic Acid Manufacturers of the European Economic Community] (EAIO) (COFAG), no longer have a presence on the Internet; and the IGTC is no longer listed as an organization managed by the Kellen Company.
According to the International Glutamate Information Service, “The science which supports our understanding of the role of glutamate in human nutrition and health has been conducted at prestigious institutions and universities around the world. Named on their web page were Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA; Mario Negri Institute, Milan, Italy; Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadephia, PA, USA; and the University of Pittsburg, USA.
“The toxicity/safety of processed free glutamic acid (MSG): A study in suppression of information” provides detail and discusses individuals and organizations that knowingly or unknowingly, disseminate misinformation for the glutamate industry (Samuels).
National Food Review (1987, Fall). p 22.
Samuels, A. The toxicity/safety of processed free glutamic acid (MSG): A study in suppression of information. Accountability in Research (1999) Vol 6, pp. 259-310.
Umami Information Center (n.d.). Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter and UMAMI: It's simply a matter of taste [Brochure]. 1-5-8 Kyobashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104, Japan.
GLUTAMATE INDUSTRY ORGANIZATIONS
Ajinomoto http://www.ajinomoto.com/features/aji-no-moto/en/index.html (accessed 9.18.2010)
Ajinomoto: MSG info.com http://www.msginfo.com/index.asp (accessed 9.18.2010)
Australian Glutamate Information Service http://www.glutamate.org.au/ accessed 9.18.2010
Australia Umami Information Center http://www.umami.org.au/ accessed 9.18.2010
European Food Information Council http://www.eufic.org/article/en/page/FTARCHIVE/artid/monosodium-glutamate/ (accessed 9.18.2010)
The Glutamate Association http://www.msgfacts.com/ (accessed 9.18.2010)
International Food Information Service http://www.foodinsight.org (accessed 9.18.2010)
International Glutamate Information Service http://www.glutamate.org/Links.asp (accessed 9.18.2010)
International Glutamate Technical Committee On 9.18.2010 we couldn’t find them on the Internet. Even the Kellen Company had removed the link to their name. (They were still listed as a Kellen Company client, but without a link to their Web page.) This is the organization under whose banner placebo materials used in double-blind studies of the safety of monosodium glutamate were laced with neurotoxic aspartic acid found in aspartame.
Umami Information Center (UIC) http://www.umamiinfo.com/ accessed 9.18.2010