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Andrew G. Ebert, Roland Auer, Steve Taylor, W. Ann Reynolds, Ronald Simon
Donald Stevenson, David Hattan, James R. Laidler
Defenders of the Safety of MSG:
People who Sell the Product

There is considerable evidence to suggest that consumption of MSG places humans at risk, with the greatest risk faced by children.(1)

On the other hand, studies designed, implemented, and/or supported by the glutamate industry are generally questionable. All data we have seen from The Glutamate Association, the International Glutamate Technical Committee (IGTC), the International Food Information Council (IFIC), and their sponsors, come from studies that are badly flawed.(2) Reviews done by the Institute for Food Technologists, the FDA, and the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) are reviews done by persons with severe conflicts of interest, and are fraught with glutamate-industry bias.

We are aware of no person, institution, or agency that has claimed that MSG is "safe," that does not have close ties to food and/or drug industries, or that has not been at least indirectly remunerated by them. In 1992, FDA appointed both Andrew G. Ebert, Ph.D., IGTC chairman, and Kristin McNutt, Ph.D., paid spokesperson for the IGTC, to the FDA Food Advisory Committee. Ebert is (or was) also an official "Observer" at the World Health Organization. In 1992, the FDA funded "an independent study" conducted by FASEB, with Expert Panel members including at least four people with ties to the glutamate industry. Steve Taylor, Ph.D., who is (or was) Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Communicator on the subject of MSG has been a paid IGTC spokesperson for years.

Trade associations that represent glutamate industry interests include IFIC and the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI). IFIC actively fought the presentation of a "60 Minutes" segment on MSG in 1991, and presently offers material that pretends to demonstrate that MSG is safe. The Encyclopedia of Associations says that IFIC represents the interests of the glutamate industry. Yet on Internet, we see IFIC listed as "independent." Last time we saw one, IFIC's MSG-packet included names of speakers who would attest to the safety of MSG. Named were Steve Taylor, Ph.D., Darly Altman, M.D., S. Allan Bock, M.D., Susan S. Schiffman, Ph.D., John D. Fernstrom, Ph.D., Jonathan H. Pincus, M.D., L. Jack Filer, M.D., Ph.D., Fergus M. Clydesdale, Ph.D., Richard J. Wurtman, M.D., and Dr. Sanford A. Miller. More recently, Ronald Simon, M.D. and Donald Stevenson, M.D. of Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation, LaJolla, California, appeared as expert witnesses for the glutamate industry.

The American Academy of Allergy and Immunology has developed materials jointly with IFIC or IFIC's foundation. Their brochure entitled "Understanding Food Allergy" includes such false information as "Whenever MSG is added to food, it is listed on the label as monosodium glutamate." The IFIC brochure, "What You Should Know about Monosodium Glutamate," which has been reviewed favorably by the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation, states not only that MSG is safe, but that MSG is safe for children. The FDA has also developed a brochure jointly with IFIC that states, in part, "Whenever MSG is added to food, it is listed on the label as monosodium glutamate."

In 1994, IFIC commissioned a review of the book Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills written by Russell L. Blaylock, M.D. Blaylock had warned that MSG probably contributes to neurodegenerative disease such as ALS, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease. The review was done for IFIC by Jonathan Pincus, M.D., who, it would appear, did not read Blaylock's book. Pincus' research has, in part, been supported by ILSI. ILSI has also provided grant money to The Food Allergy Network. Dr. Steve Taylor, mentioned earlier, is a member of The Food Allergy Network Medical Advisory Board. The Food Allergy Network is a nonprofit organization that claims as members both the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The glutamate industry has two arms. One is the International Hydrolyzed Protein Council, which counts as members those that profit from sale of hydrolyzed protein products other than monosodium glutamate. Members include, or at one time included, Ajinomoto USA, Inc.; Arancia Ingredients Especiales, S.A. De C.V.; Basic Food Flavors, Inc.; Campbell Soup Company; Champlain Industries, Inc.; CPC International, Inc.; Deltown Specialties; Fidco, Inc.; Establissements Bio-Springer; Gist-Brocades Food Ingredients, Inc.; Griffith Laboratories; Haco Ltd.; Integrated Ingredients; Francereco S.A.; Quest International; A.E. Staley Manufacturing Co.; Sugemesa; Takeda U.S.A., Inc.; Red Star Specialty Products; Provesta Corporation.

The second arm consists of the IGTC and it's American subsidiary The Glutamate Association whose members include (or used to include) Ajinomoto, Archer Daniels Midland, Campbell, Corn Products Corporation, McCormick & Company, Pet Foods, Pfizer Laboratories, and Takeda. Both organizations are (or were) accommodated under the umbrella of The Robert H. Kellen Company of Atlanta, Georgia and Washington, DC., a trade organization and association management firm. However, following exposure of the fact that research protocols used by IGTC sponsored researchers were flawed to the point of being fraudulent, including, for example use of MSG and other reactive materials in placebos provided to researchers by the IGTC, Ebert was replaced as IGTC chairman (although he continued on as an officer of the Robert H. Kellen Company).

This subject is covered more fully in an article published in 1999 in Accountability in Research.
 

REFERENCES+

1. Blaylock, R.L. Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills Santa Fe: Health Press, 1994.

2. Samuels, A. Monosodium L-glutamate: a double-blind study and review. Letter to the Editor. Food and Chemical Toxicology. 33: 69-78, 1995.
 
 
 

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IF MSG ISN'T HARMFUL, WHY IS IT HIDDEN?