Is it sound science, or does it simply sound like science?

It’s “just sodium and the amino acid glutamate, which is found in nature” is how Leslie Nemo, writing in discovermagazine.com, leads into the latest piece of MSG-is-good-for-you propaganda that’s been sent to us recently.

Not having a party to go to on New Year’s Eve, I thought it might be fun to pick apart what Nemo had to say about monosodium glutamate, starting with her title: MSG Isn’t Bad For You, According to Science.

So, let’s start at the beginning with “According to Science.” My guess is that Nemo’s version of science is what David Michaels wrote about in his book The Triumph of Doubt, Dark Money and the Science of Deception.”

The Triumph of Doubt reveals how “science for hire” tactics that can be traced from Big Tobacco to the current day affects food, cosmetics, cars and even professional sports.

If, for example, you use only subjects who have never had any reactions known to be caused by MSG, chances are good that the subjects in your study won’t have MSG reactions. If you limit your subjects to people on anti-migraine drugs, chances are good that your subjects won’t have migraines. Research by Ajinomoto (likely the world’s largest producer of MSG) has been carried out by a variety of academics from various universities and medical schools who were given study protocols and supervised by Andrew G. Ebert (Ajinomoto’s agent in charge of research at the time). Although they had common elements, no two studies were identical.

There was, however, one element that was shared by all — the use of excitotoxic amino acids in “placebos.” By giving subjects placebos that cause the same reactions as those caused by MSG, there could be as many reactions to placebos as there are to MSG test material. From that, researchers could declare they had demonstrated that people really don’t react to MSG. But to make sure the conclusion that MSG is harmless would be beyond reproach, glutamate-industry researchers guaranteed that subjects would react to placebos with the same reactions that are caused by MSG. They did that by using aspartame as the toxic ingredient in their placebos, which worked well because the aspartic acid in aspartame and the glutamic acid in MSG cause virtually identical reactions (as well as identical brain damage). Having set that up, glutamate-industry researchers (and the propaganda artists who quote them) will say “These people aren’t sensitive to MSG, they reacted to the placebo too.”

What Leslie Nemo would have us believe may sound like science but doesn’t begin to be sound science. First Nemo claims that research hasn’t backed up claims that physical symptoms develop after eating MSG. Study participants she says, given MSG or a placebo capsule are typically just as likely to get headaches or numbness, no matter which one they consumed.

Such studies would have been done under the direction of Dr. Ebert wherein placebos contained amino acids known to cause the same brain damage and reactions as those caused by the glutamic acid in MSG.

Another study mentioned in the Discover article was of 60 individuals, finding that two who had ingested MSG broth felt tightness or numbness — but so did six people who had coffee and spiced tomato juice which didn’t contain MSG.

In that study, the key to producing negative results (no effect of MSG) would have been to add “Equal” and/or aspartame to the coffee and spiced tomato juice “which didn’t contain MSG.” Both of those additives contain aspartic acid, an amino acid known to cause the same brain damage and adverse reactions as MSG.

Nemo also details a study where researchers who recorded the responses of 130 people who thought they were sensitive to MSG found that some individuals may show more symptoms when eating the additive without other food. But when participants ingested the MSG serving as part of their breakfast, their symptoms disappeared.

In that kind of study, potential subjects (usually graduate students) were told they would be paid several hundred dollars to participate in the study if they said they were “sensitive” to MSG. Sensitivity was never verified.

As told by Leslie Nemo, some of the world’s largest food safety governing bodies have approved MSG, and the FDA considers it to be “generally recognized as safe.” Many other organizations have decided the same, she says, including JECFA, an international scientific committee administered jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and World Health Organization.

It is true that persons who have identified themselves as representing The Glutamate Association, an organization created and maintained by Ajinomoto, have declared that both the FDA and regulators around the world have found monosodium glutamate to be safe. However, neither independent scientists nor independent regulators have deemed monosodium glutamate safe. FDA studies, which were actually reviews, have always been staffed by persons with ties to the glutamate industry. And those regulators and/or authoritative bodies did no research of their own, but were given copies of FDA opinions on MSG safety or were provided review information by Ajinomoto, its not-for-profit corporations, and/or its agents — the International Food Information Council (IFIC) and the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), for example.

In addition to citing research, Nemo plays the “naturally occurring” card: “monosodium glutamate is just sodium and the amino acid glutamate, which is found in nature.” True, glutamate is found in nature, but the glutamate used in MSG isn’t culled from nature. In the United States it is produced in Ajinomoto’s factory in Eddyville, Iowa. The glutamate used in MSG is L-glutamate, the L enantiomer of glutamic acid (glutamate), an amino acid which when present in protein or released from protein in a regulated fashion (through routine digestion) is vital for normal body function. It is the principal neurotransmitter in humans, carrying nerve impulses from glutamate stimuli to glutamate receptors throughout the body. Yet, when present outside of protein in amounts that exceed what the healthy human body was designed to accommodate — an amount now readily available in a diet of processed foods — glutamate becomes an excitotoxic neurotransmitter, firing repeatedly, damaging targeted glutamate-receptors and/or causing neuronal and non-neuronal death by over exciting those glutamate receptors until their host cells die.

Predictably, Nemo failed to site research demonstrating the toxic potential of MSG – such as brain damage followed by gross obesity and infertility. You can learn more about that at the Truth in Labeling Campaign — https://truthinlabeling.org/evidence_brain_damage.html — tells part of the story.


If you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you.  And if you have hints for others on how to avoid exposure to MfG, send them along, too, we’ll put them up on Facebook.  You can also reach us at questionsaboutmsg@gmail.com and follow us on Twitter @truthlabeling

There’s no such thing as ‘natural’ MSG

The FDA is fond of saying that there are “naturally high levels” of MSG in some foods, notably tomatoes and processed tomato products. That’s simply not true. MSG is manufactured. There’s no such thing as “natural” MSG.

This is a picture of the plant in Eddyville Iowa where Ajinomoto manufactures monosodium glutamate (MSG). What do you think Ajinomoto had to do to get the FDA to parrot its fiction that “MSG is naturally occurring?”

If you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you. If you have hints for others on how to avoid exposure to MfG, send them along, too, and we’ll put them up on Facebook. Or you can reach us at questionsaboutmsg@gmail.com and follow us on Twitter @truthlabeling.

Being the number one producer of MSG didn’t just happen

Ask successful business people and they’ll tell you that while it’s great to have a decent product, it’s really the marketing that counts. And there’s no better marketing tool than having the FDA follow your script, broadcast the virtues of your product, and ignore all data that say your product kills brain cells. Brain cells that if not obliterated would have regulated appetite (preventing obesity) and reproduction function (preventing infertility).

References:

Industry’s FDA: https://www.truthinlabeling.org/fda.html

Samuels, A. (2020). Dose dependent toxicity of glutamic acid: A review: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10942912.2020.1733016

Olney, J.W. (1969). Brain lesions, obesity, and other disturbances in mice treated with monosodium glutamate. Science 164: 719-721.


If you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you. If you have hints for others on how to avoid exposure to MfG, send them along, too, and we’ll put them up on Facebook. Or you can reach us at questionsaboutmsg@gmail.com and follow us on Twitter @truthlabeling.

If it wasn’t harmful, it wouldn’t be hidden

There’s a really nice article detailing the history of MSG production in Worldkings — an Indian organization that notes significant achievements in a number of categories.

They featured Ajinomoto as one of the top 100 companies that have been in business over 100 years. But more than just a tip of the hat, Worldkings follows Ajinomoto from the day they introduced the original MSG into the market in 1909 through World War I, the opening of an office in New York, even noting that in April 1946 the company changed their name to Ajinomoto Co., Ltd. By 1950, the article says, exports from Japan accounted for 95% of the company’s revenue, with trade to Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States increasing in subsequent years.

Then we learn that in the 1970s, Ajinomoto diversified further, launching a flavored seasoning called “Hon-dashi” in 1970 and beginning production of frozen foods in 1972.

But wait! Big things happened between 1950 and 1970. In 1957 a new and brilliant method for producing the glutamic acid used in MSG was introduced — a method that soon would be used world-wide for manufacture of amino acids. Brilliant science! Amazing profits! So, why was this not mentioned?

Has it got something to do with the method itself? According to a 1996 article by Leung and Foster in the Encyclopedia of common natural ingredients used in food, drugs, and cosmetics (the only such article without Ajinomoto’s authorship or sponsorship), the glutamic acid in monosodium glutamate is generally made by microbial fermentation. In this method, bacteria are grown aerobically in a liquid nutrient medium. The bacteria have the ability to excrete glutamic acid they synthesize outside of their cell membrane into the liquid nutrient medium in which they are grown. The glutamic acid is then separated from the fermentation broth by filtration, concentration, acidification, and crystallization, and converted to its monosodium salt.

Official patents dealing with the manufacture of glutamic acid confirm that Ajinomoto’s monosodium glutamate is made by this process of bacterial fermentation wherein carefully selected genetically engineered bacteria that are fed on various carbohydrate media secrete glutamic acid through their cell walls.

In stark contrast, the FDA, The Glutamate Association, and all of Ajinomoto’s other “divisions” maintain that MSG is usually produced through a fermentation process similar to that used in making beer, vinegar and yogurt, with MSG production beginning with the fermentation of corn, sugar beets or sugar cane.

Could there be concern that hearing about use of bacteria, particularly GMO bacteria, might turn people off?

Maybe they’re worried that discussing the way in which MSG is manufactured would suggest that there’s nothing “natural” about it.

Perhaps there’s fear it will leak out that unavoidable by-products (impurities) are produced when L-glutamic acid (the flavor-enhancing constituent of glutamic acid) and MSG are manufactured. D-glutamic acid and pyroglutamic acid are two powerful neurotoxins that would certainly attract the attention of toxicologists. (In all of their writings about the safety of MSG, Ajinomoto has never acknowledged the existence of impurities. That stands to reason because truly natural products wouldn’t have impurities.)

Possibly more important, however, would be hiding the fact that with virtually unlimited production of MSG it could become available in such quantities that the glutamate in MSG would become excitotoxic – capable of killing brain cells. And with the change in glutamic acid’s production method, that’s exactly what happened. There is now sufficient glutamic acid in food to become excitotoxic for anyone consuming more than one glutamate-containing product during the course of a day. Not hard to do considering the vast amounts of cheap processed and ultra-processed foods available.

Other important and unmentioned things happened between 1950 and 1970:

  • In 1968, Dr. Ho Man Kwok wrote to the New England Journal of Medicine describing a set of reactions following MSG ingestion, that were eventually dubbed “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.”
  • In 1969 Dr. John Olney observed that free glutamic acid and MSG administered to infant mice caused brain lesions in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus, and that brain damage was followed by obesity, behavior disorders, reproductive dysfunction and a variety of other neuro-endocrine disorders.
  • The term “excitotoxin” was coined to stand for an amino acid (like glutamic acid) that serves a necessary function when present in controlled amounts, but kills brain cells when quantities greater than required for normal body function become available.

The adage “If it wasn’t harmful, it wouldn’t be hidden” seems to apply perfectly here.


If you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you. If you have hints for others on how to avoid exposure to MfG, send them along, too, and we’ll put them up on Facebook. Or you can reach us at questionsaboutmsg@gmail.com and follow us on Twitter @truthlabeling.

The Truth About AJI-NO-MOTO®

Reading about the Umami Seasoning Day celebration in Lagos, Nigeria, we came across an article titled The Truth About AJI-NO-MOTO, which we felt needed clarification. The update we offer here is based on the motto of The Truth in Labeling Campaign: “The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about MSG.”

Note: our revisions are in red type and the patently false statements have been crossed out.

The Truth About AJI-NO-MOTO® — clarified by the Truth in Labeling Campaign

Since 1909 AJI-NO-MOTO® Umami Seasoning has been used to bring out the best taste in food all over the world. The extensive body of research produced by Ajinomoto which exists about this widely used ingredient has been reviewed by independent Ajinomoto’s scientists and regulatory authorities (to whom Ajinomoto provided all materials for review) throughout the world – all have found of whom claim that MSG to be safe is harmless.

You can find out more about this from our parent site the Truth in Labeling Campaign here.

Feel safe enjoying tastes and eating

AJI-NO-MOTO® (MSG) has been safely used as a food ingredient since 1909. However, due to the common misconceptions, growing numbers of reports of adverse reactions caused by MSG, it is now claimed to be one of the most thoroughly tested of all food ingredients, with hundreds of scientific studies financed by Ajinomoto confirming proclaiming its safe and effective use. MSG’s safety has been repeatedly affirmed by regulators and scientific agencies around the world who were given selected studies done by Ajinomoto’s agents to use in drawing their conclusions that MSG is harmless.

History of scientific studies for MSG around the world

In the early 1950s, as processed foods increased in many countries all over the world, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) of the United Nations established a new committee, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), to evaluate the safety of food additives.

JECFA* evaluated the safety of glutamate in 1970, 1973 and 1987, all overseen by members of the glutamate industry. After three safety evaluations, JECFA placed MSG in the safest category, “Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) not specified”.

In 1991, the European Commission’s Scientific Committee for Food (SCF), after considering studies brought to it by Ajinomoto’s agents, also affirmed MSG’s safety. Having reviewed the most advanced and up-to-date research created by Ajinomoto on glutamate, the SCF published a report in 1991 which designated an ‘ADI not specified’ for MSG.

In 1995, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), with a review panel staffed by persons with conflicts of interest, reaffirmed the safety of MSG for the general population. In its review, commissioned by the FDA, FASEB’s panel of reviewers with serious conflicts of interest, found looked for no evidence linking MSG to any serious or long-term health effects, which led the FDA used to again reaffirm that MSG is a safe food ingredient at normally consumed levels.


If you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you. If you have hints for others on how to avoid exposure to MfG, send them along, too, and we’ll put them up on Facebook. Or you can reach us at questionsaboutmsg@gmail.com and follow us on Twitter @truthlabeling.

Fraud?

Almost 30 years ago RN’s Rose Chop and Mary Silva writing in the Journal of Professional Nursing noted that “Scientific research typically has been founded on high ethical standards established by researchers in academia and health care research institutions. Scientific fraud, an act of deception or misrepresentation of one’s own work, violates these ethical standards. It can take the form of plagiarism, falsification of data, and irresponsible authorship. Scientific fraud has been attributed to misdirected attempts to attain high levels of personal and professional success. Researchers so prone commit scientific fraud in a search for promotion, status, tenure, and the obtaining of research grants.

With Big Food, we have seen another kind of scientific fraud – one that has nothing to do with attaining high levels of personal and professional success. Research grants are not needed by those who are paid up front to turn out these studies. And there is no need to falsify data as these studies were rigged in advance to produce the numbers that would be needed to draw the conclusions that their sponsor(s) had pre-ordained.

In a 2018 article titled “How do we tackle scientific fraud?” Anne Cooke writing for the British Society for Immunology stated that “fraud or scientific misconduct includes fabrication of data, falsification of data (including data selection and image manipulation), plagiarism (including self-plagiarism and use of other people’s data/ ideas), failure to meet ethical obligations such as obtaining patient consent, misuse of research funds, misrepresentation of data by, for example, not disclosing relevant findings, making inappropriate claims to authorship or failing to include an author who has made a significant contribution.”

Ajinomoto’s program for scientific fraud incorporates little or none of that. They don’t fabricate or falsify data, they simply design studies that will produce the results they are looking for.

If you use only subjects who have never had any reactions known to be caused by MSG, chances are good that the subjects in your study won’t have MSG reactions. If you limit your subjects to people on anti-migraine drugs, chances are that your subjects won’t have migraines. However, those designs aren’t foolproof.

Foolproof

There’s nothing second rate about Ajinomoto’s research. A variety of academics from various universities and medical schools were given study protocols and supervised by Andrew G. Ebert (Ajinomoto’s agent in charge of research) without the involvement of Ajinomoto being disclosed. Although they had common elements, no two studies were identical.

There was, however, one element that was shared by all — the use of excitotoxic amino acids in “placebos.” It’s actually elegant in its simplicity.

In a double-blind study, test material is given to a subject on one occasion, and on another occasion the subject is given a placebo. The placebo, if it’s a true placebo, looks, tastes and smells like the test material, but it will not cause a reaction. If the subject reacts to the inert placebo, the researchers could conclude that the subject is some kind of nut case who might react to anything, and therefore any reactions to MSG test material are coming from what the subject was thinking or imagining, not from the MSG. In industry studies of MSG-safety, subjects were not given true placebos.

That’s it. Simple. By giving subjects alleged placebos that cause the “right” reactions, there may be as many reactions to placebos as there are to MSG test material. From that, researchers could declare they had demonstrated that people really don’t react to MSG. But to make sure the conclusion that MSG is harmless would be beyond reproach, glutamate-industry researchers guaranteed that subjects would react to placebos with the same reactions that are caused by MSG. They did that by using aspartame as the toxic ingredient in their placebos, which worked well for them because the aspartic acid in aspartame and the glutamic acid in MSG cause virtually identical reactions (as well as identical brain damage). Having set that up, glutamate-industry researchers (and the propaganda artists who quote them) will say “These people aren’t sensitive to MSG, they reacted to the ‘placebo’ too.” Case closed!

Resources
FDA Adverse Reactions Monitoring System (ARMS) – Collected Reports of Adverse reactions to monosodium glutamate.

FDA Adverse Reactions Monitoring System (ARMS) – Collected Reports of Adverse reactions to Aspartame.


If you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you. If you have hints for others on how to avoid exposure to MfG, send them along, too, and we’ll put them up on Facebook. Or you can reach us at questionsaboutmsg@gmail.com and follow us on Twitter @truthlabeling.

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Industry’s FDA

It’s no secret that the FDA represents the interests of Big Food and Big Pharma – not consumers. Here is a small example of its allegiance to large corporations that we hadn’t noticed before. Unfortunately, many people still believe that if the FDA says something it must be true.

The following comes from the FDA page called “Questions and Answers on Monosodium glutamate (MSG)” found here: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/questions-and-answers-monosodium-glutamate-msg accessed on 7/22/2020.

What is MSG?

The FDA says that monosodium glutamate (MSG) is the sodium salt of the common amino acid glutamic acid. Glutamic acid is naturally present in our bodies, and in many foods and food additives.

How is it made?

The FDA says that MSG occurs naturally in many foods, such as tomatoes and cheese. People around the world have eaten glutamate-rich foods throughout history. For example, a historical dish in the Asian community is a glutamate-rich seaweed broth. In 1908, a Japanese professor named Kikunae Ikeda was able to extract glutamate from this broth and determined that glutamate provided the savory taste to the soup. Professor Ikeda then filed a patent to produce MSG and commercial production started the following year.

What is MSG?

Mono (single) sodium glutamate in science-speak is glutamate tied to a sodium ion, just as monopotassium glutamate would be glutamate tied to a potassium ion. That’s the makeup of the mono sodium glutamate occurring naturally in our bodies. (Glutamate is rarely found “free,” but is ordinarily tied to an ion such as sodium or potassium.)

The monosodium glutamate that Ajinomoto is selling is made up of manufactured glutamate, the impurities that invariable accompany manufactured glutamate, and sodium.

How is it made?

MSG doesn’t occur naturally anywhere — it’s made – manufactured! The monosodium glutamate that Ajinomoto is selling is a product made in Ajinomoto’s plant in Eddyville Iowa where glutamate is produced by genetically modified bacteria that secrete glutamate through their cell walls, which is then mixed with sodium. (The process for manufacturing MSG has been patented, and as the process is improved over time new patents are awarded.)

Want to learn more about how the FDA cooperates with industry? You’ll find it on the webpage of the Truth in Labeling Campaign, on Pinterest, in It Wasn’t Alzheimer’s, It Was MSG, in The toxicity/safety of processed free glutamic acid (MSG): A study in suppression of information, and in countless books such as White Wash by Carey Gillam, and Eating May Be Hazardous To Your Health – The Case Against Food Additives by J. Verrett and J. Carper.


If you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you. If you have hints for others on how to avoid exposure to MfG, send them along, too, and we’ll put them up on Facebook. Or you can reach us at questionsaboutmsg@gmail.com and follow us on Twitter @truthlabeling.

Cries of hate added to claims of racism fuel Ajinomoto’s latest campaign to push sales of MSG

Fresh out of its victory lap in “convincing” the Merriam-Webster online dictionary folks to change its definition of Chinese Restaurant Syndrome, Ajinomoto, the world’s largest manufacturer of monosodium glutamate, has added a new dimension to their “swallow the MSG campaign,” hoping that people will swallow their propaganda and think nothing of consuming processed foods that contain MSG. This one is attempting to convince consumers that any choice to avoid Chinese restaurants is based on hate and racism – when it is more likely based on the good sense of decreasing exposure to toxic substances like MSG during a pandemic.

Led by one of its PR firms, Edelman Communications, the campaign dubbed #TakeOutHate, is flooding social media with a group of “influencers” telling consumers to order huge amounts of Chinese take-out and share a photo online. “Don’t let that hate get between you and these shrimp dumps,” we’re told.

Ajinomoto, it seems, has decided to play victim amid growing consumer awareness about the dangers of consuming MSG. In telling about its new #TakeoutHate blitz, Ajinomoto says on its website that “as the company that was founded on the discovery of MSG, we are no stranger to the impact of unfair stigma.”

But the stigma attached to a company that pumps excitotoxic (brain damaging) amino acids into processed foods is hardly unfair. What’s really unfair is how Ajinomoto can harness the power of the media with big bucks and a PR firm that has all the right contacts to lie to the public about the product it produces. Reporters of all stripes from media outlets of all sizes are more than happy to parrot numerous bold-faced falsehoods time and time again without giving it a second thought.

Truth be told, monosodium glutamate has been researched extensively by Ajinomoto-funded researchers who rigged their studies with things like excitotoxic ingredients in placebos and concluded that MSG is harmless. MSG is a manufactured additive, and the product called MSG can’t be produced without unwanted byproducts of production called impurities. The glutamate in the human body has none of those impurities. And since 1957, the glutamate in MSG has been manufactured using carefully selected genetically modified bacteria that excrete glutamate through their cell walls – hardly the way that yogurt and wine are made.

But as more and more people, some through personal experience and others through research, learn about the toxic nature of MSG and the other 40+ ingredients that contain its toxic Manufactured free Glutamate, or MfG as we abbreviate it, they are choosing to avoid it wherever and however they can.

You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool the people who know they get sick from eating MSG.

And that’s not “hate,” and it’s certainly not racism.

If you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you. If you have hints for others on how to avoid exposure to MfG, send them along, too, and we’ll put them up on Facebook. Or you can reach us at questionsaboutmsg@gmail.com and follow us on Twitter @truthlabeling.

If you’re wondering what the umami flavor is, be confused no more

Umami is often described as that marvelous flavor experience you get when foods are at their peak, or served with a little something that gives the taste buds a boost to enhance that already delicious flavor.

Kikunae Ikeda discovered that little something early in the 20th century when he realized that pairing foods with a touch of seaweed could create a desirable taste sensation. It has also been observed by foodies that there is something about mushrooms and tomatoes that accomplishes the same thing. Start with good fresh food, pair it with seaweed, mushrooms, or tomatoes, and with those flavor-enhancers you can get heaven on a plate.

There are other ways to make food tasty. Garlic and onions have been recognized for centuries along with a multitude of other spices and seasonings. But they aren’t flavor enhancers. They don’t improve the flavor of foods, they simply add to it.

Ikeda, who was a chemist, did more than just notice the flavor-enhancing capacity of seaweed. That something else he found was chemically analyzed, put into a bottle, patented, and is now known as monosodium glutamate or MSG. Ikeda had discovered that it was glutamate, an amino acid found in considerable quantity in seaweed, that gave taste buds a boost, enhancing the flavor of foods seaweed was paired with.

The story of how that works differs depending on the source. Is it being told by those who profit from the sale of MSG, or by independent scientists? Ajinomoto has developed a PR narrative built around changing MSG’s identify from a pre-1969 flavor-enhancer to a post-2000 fifth taste. According to Ajinomoto, MSG has a taste of its own. According to Ajinomoto, there are MSG receptors just as there are receptors for sweet, sour, bitter, and salty.

Independent scientists are more likely to point out that what Ajinomoto’s people refer to as MSG-receptors, are actually glutamate receptors. Glutamate, which is a neurotransmitter, stimulates glutamate receptors in the mouth and on the tongue causing the cells on which those receptors are located to swell, so to speak. And these larger, swollen surfaces triggered by MSG stimulation cause food consumed with MSG to be perceived as having a “bigger” taste than it would otherwise.

In 1969, John W. Olney, M.D., published the first of several papers that detailed the facts of MSG-induced toxicity. A year earlier, the New England Journal of Medicine had published a letter titled “Chinese-restaurant Syndrome.” Since that time Ajinomoto has worked vigorously to refute the findings of Olney and others or simply make sure they don’t have public exposure, downplay the reactions reported by individuals who are poisoned by MSG, or do whatever else is necessary to convince consumers that MSG is a harmless product. (That subject is dealt with in detail elsewhere.)

Possibly Ajinomoto’s most successful marketing tool has been to pair the acronym “MSG” with the word “umami.” Just as Pavlov’s dogs learned to anticipate food when a bell was sounded, so are humans being conditioned to associate the feel-good word “umami” with the food additive MSG.

Responding to the growing awareness that the ingredient called monosodium glutamate causes obesity and infertility, along with adverse reactions like tachycardia, migraine headache, asthma, and seizures, Ajinomoto has been striving to fool consumers by giving that ingredient a new name. Don’t reduce its toxicity (if indeed that could be done). Just covertly rebrand MSG.

The rebranding process has evolved slowly, and because Ajinomoto’s narrative changes from time to time depending on the PR firm employed and the marketing plan being executed, the details are not necessarily crystal clear. In hindsight it appears that the first step was to get people to believe that monosodium glutamate was more than the flavor enhancer previously described by Ajinomoto in food encyclopedias. That was before the game plan was changed to get people to believe that monosodium glutamate was a basic taste, and that there were specific taste receptors for MSG in the human body.

To facilitate that change, researchers were encouraged to conduct studies underwritten (directly or indirectly) by Ajinomoto for the purpose of finding something from which they could conclude the MSG had a taste of its own. Discussion of that research is beyond the scope of this paper, but it consists in large part of doing multiple studies, publishing only the one in a hundred that comes out as desired by industry and reporting none of the others. There are indeed numbers of published studies that Ajinomoto will point to as evidence that MSG is a fifth taste. (There are also published studies that Ajinomoto will point to as evidence that MSG is a harmless food additive – studies that included use of placebos containing excitotoxic aspartic acid which causes brain damage and adverse reactions identical to that caused by the excitotoxic glutamic acid component of MSG.) And there are no studies that would dispute the industry-sponsored ones because, at least in part, there would be no funding for such research.

With studies alleging that MSG has a taste of its own, different from salty, sweet, bitter, and sour, wordsmiths began spinning industry’s tale. Slowly, in story after story, MSG would be referred to as an ingredient – like sugar and salt are ingredients. Not a flavor enhancer. An ingredient with a taste of its own.

And then that ingredient, which had, and still has a bad name, would be rebranded. The new name would be “umami,” a word that has been in the Japanese vocabulary for over a century meaning “delicious taste.”

Today, the word “umami” means different things to different people. A chef concerned with use of wholesome ingredients may brag that his creations are flavorful — are the essence of umami.

But to those who manufacture and sell MSG, “umami” is a marketing tool used to sell their product. Clearly lots of people have bought into Ajinomoto’s story (or maybe it’s more correct to say that Ajinomoto has bought lots of people). But if you delve deeply into market reports, or have friends in the industry, you will find that their propaganda isn’t working the way they had anticipated, and Ajinomoto is losing money.

The rigged research, the deceptive and misleading statements, and the bold-faced lies haven’t stemmed the tide of reports of MSG-induced reactions. Not even Edelman’s multimillion-dollar campaign to clear MSG’s bad name seems to have made a difference. It will be interesting to see how quickly chefs and other celebrities who now talk about “umami” realize that they are being used by Ajinomoto to promote a toxic product.

If you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you. If you have hints for others on how to avoid exposure to MfG, send them along, too, and we’ll put them up on Facebook. Or you can reach us at questionsaboutmsg@gmail.com and follow us on Twitter @truthlabeling.

MSG doesn’t occur ‘naturally’ in anything

Whenever you see the words “MSG is a naturally occurring substance…” you can be sure that the Glutes have written what you’re reading.

MSG is a product. MSG is manufactured in Ajinomoto’s plant in Eddyville, Iowa. MSG doesn’t occur “naturally” in anything.

If you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you. If you have hints for others on how to avoid exposure to MfG, send them along, too, and we’ll put them up on Facebook. Or you can reach us at questionsaboutmsg@gmail.com and follow us on Twitter @truthlabeling.

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