"...the sample has been modified to replace the sucrose with the low calorie sweetener Aspartame in both the placebo and sample with MSG."
July 3, 1993
Kenneth D. Fisher, Ph.D.
Life Sciences Research Office
9650 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20814
Dear Dr. Fisher:
Those who were appointed to the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Expert Panel prior to April, 1993, may recall that during the course of my remarks at the FASEB Public Hearing on April 8, 1993, I stated, in part, "I see the current study as putting the integrity of FASEB, the integrity of science, and the integrity of each and every scientist that serves on this FASEB committee on trial." I never imagined, when I made it, how appropriate that statement was.
We now have irrefutable proof that the International Glutamate Technical Committee (IGTC) is responsible for scientific fraud in studies conducted to "prove" that MSG is safe. These fraudulent studies were conducted by a number of scientists, and were published, at least in some cases, in peer reviewed journals. The documentation of scientific fraud has been on file at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology and the Food and Drug Administration since 1991.
Ph.D., Senior Staff Scientist, FASEB, in response to a question about materials used in double-blind On March 22, 1991, Andrew G. Ebert, Ph.D., Chairman, IGTC, wrote to Sue Ann Anderson, R.D., studies as follows:
"Since the completion of the work described in Professor Kenney's chapter, the sample has been modified to replace the sucrose with the low calorie sweetener Aspartame in both the placebo and sample with MSG."Thus, we read from Dr. Ebert's own pen that since at least 1978, the IGTC has distributed materials containing reactive substances under the guise of placebos. And we know from reading the literature that the scientists who used the placebo materials (including Dr. Kenney), failed to disclose that they contained reactive materials; and that the editors of the peer reviewed journals that published the studies, apparently failed to question them. In addition, it is obvious that the FDA, the World Health Organization, the European Community, the American Medical Association, the Mayo Clinic, and others, did not question the reactive placebos either.
Not only was there deception in the past. It would appear that the deception is ongoing. L. Tarasoff, Ph.D., recently submitted to FASEB a paper entitled "MSG: A Double Blind Study and Review" in which he found that subjects responded to what he called placebo material as well as test material. He also reported that "The MSG and placebo drinks were prepared from powders supplied by the International Glutamate Technical Committee (IGTC)." The study was supported, in part, by IGTC.
Tarasoff reported that "Sensations, previously attributed to MSG, did not occur at a significantly higher rate than those elicited by placebo treatment." I don't find that surprising, since the material called placebo by Tarasoff, by his own admission, contained aspartame.
According to Webster's New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, a "placebo" is "a harmless, unmedicated preparation given as a medicine to a patient merely to humor him, or used as a control in testing the efficacy of another, medicated substance." Every scientist will agree that a placebo must be an inert, nonreactive, substance.
Aspartame, included in the placebo material provided by the IGTC, is not an inert, non-reactive material. It is made up of approximately 40% aspartic acid, 50% phenylalanine, and 10% methyl esther. None of these ingredients is inert or non-reactive.
It is generally agreed among neuroscientists that glutamic acid and aspartic acid are analogs. These amino acids have been found to act on the same receptors in the brain, cause the same brain damage in experimental animals, and are known to work in an additive fashion.
Individuals who report adverse reactions to either MSG or aspartame typically report reactions to the other. The enclosed table presented by Dr. Alan Leviton of Harvard Medical School in his testimony to FASEB on April 8, 1993, illustrates that reactions to MSG and aspartame are not only similar, but that specific reactions occur with approximately the same relative frequency. This observation is reinforced by reports of adverse reactions to both MSG and aspartame found in the files of FDA's Adverse Reaction Monitoring System (ARMS). Moreover, the mere fact that ARMS has received approximately 6,000 reports of adverse reactions to aspartame clearly demonstrates that aspartame is not a non-reactive material.
Nothing can excuse IGTC for having designed and/or supported blind studies that used aspartame in placebos. Ebert, who identifies himself as a toxicologist, has to know that aspartame is not an appropriate placebo material; and that since aspartic acid is an analog of glutamic acid, it will cause not only reactions, but the same human adverse reactions as those caused by glutamic acid. Ajinomoto, a producer and distributer of amino acids, an active member of IGTC, and a company that funds extensive active research programs, providing research funds to many of our major universities, and a supplier of materials for at least some industry sponsored studies, has to understand the connection between aspartic acid and glutamic acid also.
Studies that have been conducted without IGTC involvement suggest that 25-30% of the population are suffering adverse reactions from MSG at levels that are found in some meals. If you examine the data on double-blind studies that have been submitted to you by IGTC to demonstrate that people react to test materials and supposed placebos, you will see that 25 to 30% of test subjects reacted to MSG. If, sometimes, fewer subjects responded to supposed placebos than test materials, it would often have been because the toxic dose was less in the supposed placebos than in the test material. Reactions to these neurotoxic substances are dose related, and only occur when an individual has exceeded his or her dose tolerance.
Based on the fact that there is a considerable body of data that suggests that MSG poses a health hazard, and on the fact that there appear to be no data that truly demonstrate that MSG is safe, I feel that it is appropriate that the Expert Panel recommend to FASEB that the current MSG study be terminated and that the FDA be advised of the fraud that has been employed over the years to make MSG sensitivity a controversial subject. Further, I feel that your final report should include a recommendation that MSG be immediately removed from the GRAS list and all free glutamic acid that occurs in food as a consequence of manufacture be clearly labeled. Certainly, the scientific indiscretion exhibited by IGTC and Ajinomoto invalidates every conclusion that MSG is safe and raises significant question about all studies that they have used to "prove" that MSG is safe.
I would appreciate knowing the direction that you and FASEB intend to take on this matter. If additional information is needed, I would be pleased to cooperate.
Jack L. Samuels
540 Frontage Road
Northfield, Il 60093
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This page was last updated on June 3, 2004.
IF MSG ISN'T HARMFUL, WHY IS IT HIDDEN?