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FDA Asked to Name Ingredients that Contain MSG

In a letter dated August 13, 1999, then FDA Commissioner Jane Henney was asked to provide consumers with the names of ingredients that contain processed free glutamic acid (MSG). As of May 12, 2002, neither former Commissioner Henney nor anyone on her staff had responded.

August 13, 1999

Dr. Jane Henney
Food and Drug Administration
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD 20857

Dear Dr. Henney:

The Truth in Labeling Campaign respectfully requests that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) make available to physicians, consumers, manufacturers, and others the names of all ingredients that contain processed free glutamic acid (MSG).

A recently completed informal survey of the FDA's Washington Office of Food Labeling and various FDA district offices has confirmed consumers' allegations that the FDA responds to consumer inquiries about ingredients that contain processed free glutamic acid (MSG) with incomplete and/or inaccurate information, if they offer any information at all.

Some District offices supplied the surveyor with identical lists of some of the ingredients that contain MSG. Some offices said they had no lists, and that when they inquired of their liaison in Washington, they were told that there were no lists of ingredients that contain processed free glutamic acid (MSG).

A number of FDA representatives suggested resources that they thought might prove helpful. The International Food Information Council (IFIC), an organization paid to promote the sale of monosodium glutamate, a product that contains processed free glutamic acid (MSG), was recommended. Recommended, also, were a number of other groups that represent members of the glutamate industry. But no consumer group was recommended.

While minimizing the extent and severity of human adverse reactions to processed free glutamic acid (MSG), the FDA officially recognizes that some people react adversely to the substance. The FDA also recognizes that mono and dichloro propanols are produced when processed free glutamic acid (MSG) is produced by acid hydrolysis, and that mono and dichloro propanols are carcinogenic. In the late 1970s, responding to research that demonstrated that free glutamic acid caused brain lesions and neuroendocrine disorders, with the greatest risk to infants and young children, baby food manufacturers "voluntarily" removed processed free glutamic acid (MSG) from baby food. More recently, others in the glutamate industry have have responded to consumer concerns by promoting products that carry the advertisement "No added MSG" on their labels -- even though those products contain processed free glutamic acid (MSG). A prime example is the Campbell Soup Company.

To facilitate compiling a list of ingredients that contain processed free glutamic acid (MSG), we refer you to the web site of the Truth in Labeling Campaign, where a list of ingredients reported to have caused adverse reactions in MSG-sensitive people will be found. Further, please be informed that the FDA has, in the past, analyzed products (not necessarily ingredients) for the benefit of the glutamate industry (Daniel H. Daniels, Frank L. Joe, Jr. and Gregory W. Diachenko. "Determination of free glutamic acid in a variety of foods by high-performance liquid chromatography." Food Additives and Contaminants 1995, Vol 12, No 1, 21-29), so there is no question that the methodology needed to accomplish analyzing ingredients for processed free glutamic acid (MSG) content is readily available to the FDA.

Thank you for your consideration.


Adrienne Samuels, Ph.D.
858/481-9396 (fax)


For a while, I call the Commissioner's office every week or so, but "no who could respond to my questions" was ever in, and no one returned my calls.

850 DeWitt Place, Suite 20B, Chicago, IL  60611
adandjack@aol.com 858/481-9333 http://www.truthinlabeling.org

This page was last updated on July 5, 2004.