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.

Share this:

Scientists have known MSG is toxic for decades. Why doesn’t ‘media spokesperson’ Toby Amidor?

Today I came across a 2018 article in the U.S.News & World Report health section titled “Scientists Have Known MSG Is Safe for Decades. Why Don’t Most Americans?” by Toby Amidor.

Toby Amidor, according to U.S News, has a string of credentials five lines long including Adjunct Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University and Hunter School of Urban Public Health, where she teaches food service management. The magazine advises us to follow her “cutting edge nutrition information” at various online outlets.

In her U.S. News article, Toby Amidor first tells the reader that MSG’s bad reputation isn’t deserved. She then proceeds to spew out the glutamate-industry propaganda we have seen over and over again in the last two years as part of Ajinomoto’s multi-million-dollar campaign trying to prove that MSG got a bad rap and is safe for everyone.

The best of Ajinomoto’s sound bites are all in this piece, such as MSG is “naturally present in many everyday foods like tomatoes…” (ignoring the fact that MSG is manufactured, not grown in foods such as tomatoes and mushrooms).

And she learned what she knows about MSG from THE experts at a conference sponsored by Ajinomoto. According to Toby Amidor, this negative impression of MSG started with a letter that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1968 that the editors titled Chinese Restaurant Syndrome. I guess they didn’t mention at that conference that right around the same time studies had shown that MSG causes brain damage when fed to infant mice. And that there were U.S. Senate hearings calling for removal of MSG from baby food – which industry promised to do.

In her article, Toby Amidor didn’t skip a beat. There’s the line “…when they injected extremely high doses of MSG directly into newborn mice’s abdomens, the mice were likely to develop health issues including obesity, stunted physical development and disturbances in brain development.” (Toby Amidor referred to it as “brain development” instead of what it really was — brain damage. And she left out infertility.) Ignored were the many MSG feeding studies that produced brain damage, obesity, learning and behavior deficits along with reproductive disorders.

The article claims that in the 1990s American scientists started questioning the validity of Chinese restaurant syndrome. Note, however, that if you actually look up the articles, those scientists were all supported, directly or indirectly by Ajinomoto, or one of their agents, such as the International Food Information Council (IFIC).

And finally, there are the so-called “independent studies” done by glutamate industry researchers who used placebos that caused reactions identical to those caused by MSG. Placebos that contained the excitotoxic aspartic acid found in aspartame. And the not so surprising results? “…those who had been given MSG didn’t experience any more ‘Chinese restaurant syndromes’ than those who’d taken the placebo.”

Maybe more a-fib, nausea and vomiting, asthma, or seizures, but those aren’t included in Chinese restaurant syndrome, And, guess what? Toby Amidor didn’t bother to mention those reactions either.

But this is all business as usual for Toby Amidor. Her list of published articles spreading the glutes’ catchphrases is quite lengthy, as is the list of her clients and corporate sponsors. She even advertises services such as “corporate and social media messaging,” saying that she “teams up with food companies and organizations as their media spokesperson.” One client listed is Ketchum Public Relations, a huge PR firm headquartered in NYC. And on a Ketchum client list you’ll find mega-MSG producer Ajinomoto.

And that is certainly no surprise. Especially when one can rattle off the glutamate party line as glibly as Toby Amidor can.

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.

Act II: If you rig your study carefully, you won’t have to think about lying with statistics

Following are details of methodology used by industry in studies designed to demonstrate that MSG is a harmless food additive. Not every method is used in every study.

Method 1: Select subjects who claim to be sensitive to the product being tested but might not be sensitive, and might not react to the product when ingested. The claim of investigators will be that subjects are people who claim to be sensitive to the product being tested, and the conclusion will be that people who claim to be sensitive are not really sensitive to the product. Keys to use of this method lie with enticing subjects who are not sensitive to say that they are sensitive (see A below), while disqualifying potential subjects who might be sensitive to the product (see B and C), and frightening subjects who might qualify, but fear that they might suffer adverse reactions if they participated (see D).

A) Offer several hundred dollars to persons who agree to participate in the study and claim to be sensitive to the product without checking the validity of their claims.

B) Require that subjects qualify as “well subjects:” people who claim to have no pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, allergies, seizures, or headaches, for example, and therefore have no history of adverse reactions.

C) Require that people who would participate in a study first demonstrate that they will not react to “screening placebos” that will contain toxic or allergenic material similar to the test material. Only people who were not sensitive to the test material would then be serving as subjects in these studies.

D) Meet the requirements for obtaining informed consent. Requiring informed consent biases these studies (2,3).

Method 2: Minimize the likelihood that a subject will react to the test material.

A) Use rather small amounts of the product being tested.

B) Provide test material in a form that will minimize any adverse effect. Encapsulating the product, for example, will guarantee slow release, and possibly cause less effect.

C) Give subjects something to eat with the test material or prior to being tested that will slow the product’s uptake.

D) Do not exclude subjects who are currently taking medications that might block adverse effects of the product.

E) Limit the time span during which adverse reactions will be recorded so some reactions to test material will occur after recording time has lapsed, and will not be counted as reactions.

F) Time administration of product and placebo so the reactions are likely to overlap, and reactions to the product will be counted as reactions to the placebo.

G) Exclude some of the known or alleged adverse reactions to the test material from consideration.

Method 3: Maximize the probability that subjects will react to the placebo.

A) Lace the material called “placebo” with material that will cause reactions similar to, or identical to, the adverse reactions allegedly caused by the product.

B) Provide meals or snacks for all subjects prior to testing or during the test period, being certain that they contain ingredients to which subjects might be allergic or sensitive — thereby possibly increasing the toxic loads of placebos to exceed subjects’ tolerance levels, and precipitate adverse reactions to placebos.

C) Make no attempt during the course of the study to prevent subjects from ingesting food, drink, or dietary supplements, or chewing gum, to which they might be allergic or sensitive.

D) Schedule test and placebo treatments so a reaction to test material might occur after the placebo is given and be counted as an adverse reaction to the placebo.

Method 4: Focus on non-relevant measures.

A) Focus on an adverse reaction, change in blood pressure for example, that will not change, or will change only marginally when a subject ingests the test material. Use those data as basis for the claim that the test material does not cause adverse reactions.

B) Exclude some of the known relevant effects or adverse reactions from consideration.

Method 5: Subject data to sophisticated sounding inappropriate statistical analyses.

A) Use inferential statistics on data collected from volunteer subjects not randomly drawn from any population, thereby violating one of the tests’ underlying assumptions.

B) Apply statistical tests to data from research designs that fail to meet one or more of the tests’ underlying assumptions.

Method 6: Without considering whether or not proposed statistical tests are appropriate, minimize the probability that statistically significant relationships and/or statistically significant differences between groups being compared will be found.

A) Minimize the number of subjects used. Start with a limited number of subjects and/or design a two-phase study wherein a number of subjects are eliminated following Phase One.

B) Where analyses of raw data do not produce the desired results, create ratios, relative frequencies, or other indices that will reduce differences in response rate between subjects responding to test material and subjects responding to placebos.

Method 7: Draw unjustified conclusions from inappropriately interpreted statistical analyses.

The statistical model on which inferential statistics are based allows the investigator to conclude that it is highly likely (95 or 99 percent probability) that differences found were not due to chance. The statistical model does not, however, allow the investigator to conclude that there is no difference between the two groups when a statistically significant difference is not found.

Drawing conclusions based on failure to find a difference (i.e., on failure to reject the null hypothesis) is grossly inappropriate (4-6). Failure to find a statistically significant difference between groups may provide useful information for planning one’s next experiment, but it proves nothing.

Method 8: Ignore relevant data; transform relevant data so that its value declines; and/or be selective about which data will be reported.
Beyond research design…
In addition to issues of research design and methodology, investigators have been known to:

A) Draw conclusions that do not follow from the results of the study;

B) Minimize discussion of embarrassing data;

C) Direct readers’ attention to things deemed to be of value to industry; not necessarily reporting all data or results of statistical tests;

D) Include discussion of ideas that have little or nothing to do with the results of the study;

E) In discussion, include material that industry wants presented to the public, whether or not it is relevant to the stated intent of the research;

F) Fail to publish, or even talk about, the results of studies that don’t come out as planned.

The issue of placebo integrity…
The test material used in these studies was the flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate, supplied directly or indirectly by Ajinomoto, Co., Inc.

Processed free glutamic acid is, by definition, an inevitable component of monosodium glutamate. Processed free glutamic acid is a known neurotoxin and endocrine disruptor (7) alleged to cause adverse reactions ranging from mild and transitory to debilitating and life threatening (8,9). Processed free glutamic acid will be found in ingredients other than monosodium glutamate — in an escalating number of ingredients used in a wide range of processed foods.

Processed free glutamic acid made by any method will cause the same brain lesions, neuroendocrine disorders, retinal degeneration, and adverse reactions as the processed free glutamic acid found in monosodium glutamate (10,11). In the United States, consumers who understand that they react adversely to processed free glutamic acid, no matter how it is manufactured, and regardless of the ingredient in which it is found, often refer to all processed free glutamic acid as “MSG.” Those who manufacture, sell, and promote the use of monosodium glutamate routinely restrict their use of the acronym “MSG” to refer to monosodium glutamate; and “MSG” is often used as shorthand for monosodium glutamate in the scientific literature. When researchers report that no subject had been given access to MSG, it does not preclude the possibility that there may have been access to processed free glutamic acid delivered in a form other than monosodium glutamate.

Ingredients that contain processed free glutamic acid include, but are not limited to, monosodium glutamate, monopotassium glutamate, L-glutamic acid, L-glutamate, all hydrolyzed protein products, autolyzed yeast, yeast extract, calcium caseinate, sodium caseinate, gelatin, pectin, citric acid made from corn, maltodextrin, textured vegetable protein, most natural flavors and natural flavoring, soy protein isolate, and whey protein concentrate. Reactions to processed free glutamic acid will occur regardless of the names of the ingredients in which it is hidden (11).

Aspartame is known to cause the same brain damage and endocrine disorders as are caused by processed free glutamic acid (7).

Aspartame contains aspartic acid, a neurotoxic endocrine disruptor that causes virtually identical brain lesions and neuroendocrine disorders as those caused by the glutamic acid component of monosodium glutamate and the other ingredients that contain processed free glutamic acid (7,12); and those two neurotoxic amino acids are known to work in an additive fashion (7). Aspartame also contains phenylalanine and a methyl ester. According to records no longer kept by the Adverse Reactions Monitoring System of the FDA, ingestion of aspartame produces, with rare exception, the same adverse reactions as those produced by ingestion of monosodium glutamate; and monosodium glutamate and aspartame reactions occur with the same relative frequency (8,13).

Beginning in 1978, before aspartame was approved by the FDA for use in food, glutamate-industry researchers used aspartame in placebos (14). Over and above the fact that use of aspartame in placebos is grossly inappropriate, the fact that aspartame-containing products are supposed to carry a warning on their labels did not deter industry from using the substance, or the FDA from allowing its use.

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.

REFERENCES

  1. Samuels A. The toxicity/safety of processed free glutamic acid (MSG): a study in suppression of information. Account Res. 1999;6:259-310.
  2. Mitchell AM, Kline JA. Systematic bias introduced by the informed consent process in a diagnostic research study. Acad Emerg. Med 2008;15:225-30.
  3. Bjarnason NH, Kampmann JP. Selection bias introduced by the informed consent process. Lancet. 2003;361:1990.
  4. Ferguson GA. Statistical Analysis in Psychology and Education. New York: McGraw-Hill; 1959.
  5. Weinberg GH, Schumaker JA. Statistics: An Intuitive Approach. Belmont: Wadsworth; 1962.
  6. McNemar Q. Psychological Statistics. New York: Wiley; 1949.
  7. Olney JW, Ho O. Brain damage in infant mice following oral intake of glutamate, aspartate or cysteine. Nature. 1970;227:609-10.
  8. FDA Technical Information Specialist (HFS-728). Memorandum to Health Hazard Evaluation Board. Re: Summary of Adverse Reactions Attributed to MSG. June 26, 1997.
  9. Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). Analysis of adverse reactions to monosodium glutamate (MSG). Raiten DJ, Talbot, JM, Fisher, KD, eds. Bethesda, MD: Life Sciences Research Office, FASEB; 1995:77-79.
  10. Olney JW, Ho OL, Rhee V. Brain-damaging potential of protein hydrolysates. N Engl J Med. 1973; 289:391-93.
  11. FDA Bureau of Foods. Letter to a consumer from S.I. Delgado. March 3, 1981. “…if you wish to avoid the so-called ‘Chinese restaurant syndrome,’ you should also avoid foods which contain hydrolized vegetable protein.”
  12. Price MT, Olney JW, Lowry OH, Buchsbaum S. Uptake of exogenous glutamate and aspartate by circumventricular organs but not other regions of brain. Neurochem. 1981;36:1774-80.
  13. FDA Technical Information Specialist (HFS-728). Memorandum to Health Hazard Evaluation Board. Re: Summary of Adverse Reactions Attributed to Aspartame. June 26, 1997.
  14. Ebert AG. Letter to Sue Ann Anderson, R.D., Ph.D., Senior Staff Scientist, FASEB. March 22, 1991.

If you rig your study carefully, you won’t have to think about lying with statistics

Act l:

Studies of the safety of monosodium glutamate have a certain sameness worth considering. To begin with, they are just that: studies of the safety of monosodium glutamate wherein the option of toxicity is really not considered.

The body of evidence that demonstrates that monosodium glutamate causes brain damage and endocrine disorders is dismissed with the statement that studies of animals do not represent the human condition and the FDA doesn’t disagree. Moreover, since one can’t see brain damage with the naked eye, there would be no reason for the man on the street to suspect that the brain damage that he cannot see would be caused by monosodium glutamate. And there are no physicians or alternative medicine practitioners suggesting that diagnosed endocrine disorders might have been caused by monosodium glutamate.

Only remaining for the glutamate industry to overcome are the concerns of consumers who find that ingestion of monosodium glutamate and other glutamate-containing food additives cause adverse reactions such as migraine headache, heart irregularities, and depression, and the growing number of physicians and neuroscientists who, based on clinical practice and/or experience in the laboratory, warn that ingestion of monosodium glutamate places humans at risk. Industry’s vehicle for dealing with this has been the double-blind study, rigged to encourage industry-sponsored researchers to conclude that once again there has been a study done that has failed to find that monosodium glutamate is in any way harmful.

Ajinomoto’s organization: its structure…

In response to the first reports of brain damage and adverse reactions following ingestion of monosodium glutamate, Ajinomoto Co., Inc., possibly the world’s largest producer of free glutamic acid and monosodium glutamate (and producer of many other individual amino acids), established a nonprofit corporation to represent its interests. The International Glutamate Technical Committee (IGTC) was organized in 1969 as an association of member companies engaged in manufacture, sale, and commercial use of glutamates. They sponsor, gather, and disseminate research on the use and safety of monosodium glutamate; design and implement research protocols and provide financial assistance to researchers; promote acceptance of monosodium glutamate as a food ingredient; and represent members’ collective interests. Those collective interests are to sell monosodium glutamate. The IGTC is an association of individuals, companies, and staff, composed of physicians and/or scientists employed by producers or users of glutamic acid and its salts or doing research on it in university laboratories (1).

Ajinomoto’s research strategies…

The premise that monosodium glutamate is safe for human consumption is based on human research essentially underwritten, designed, and implemented by the IGTC. Researchers have:

1) Selected subjects who might not be sensitive to the product;

2) Reduced the likelihood that subjects would react to monosodium glutamate test material;

3) Used toxic or allergenic material in placebos;

4) Used too few subjects, so there would be inadequate statistical power to produce a significant difference between adverse reactions of test subjects and placebo subjects, or to find a significant relationship between the experimental variable and the measured outcome;

5) Applied statistical tests to research designs that do not meet the tests’ underlying assumptions;

6) Focused on non-relevant variables;

7) Ignored relevant data.

Reviewed individually, inappropriate handling of subjects, methodology, and/or statistical analysis in any one study might be attributed to shoddy science or sloppy scholarship. However, there is sameness in these studies which lies in the fact that methodology virtually guarantees that no statistically significant difference between subjects treated with monosodium glutamate and subjects treated another way will be found; and/or no significant relationship will be found between two or more variables being investigated. Researchers, then, can “legitimately” conclude that subjects who were given monosodium glutamate did not have more reactions than subjects given a placebo, or subjects consuming greater quantities of monosodium glutamate did not become taller, shorter, fatter, or thinner, and did not have more adverse reactions or higher blood pressure than others. It is these studies that industry points to when claiming that monosodium glutamate is safe, or when claiming that the safety (never toxicity) of monosodium glutamate is controversial. We submit, however, that since industry bases its claim for the safety of monosodium glutamate on these studies, industry itself has demonstrated that ingestion of monosodium glutamate places consumers at risk. There really is no controversy.

Reference

  1. Samuels A. The toxicity/safety of processed free glutamic acid (MSG): a study in suppression of information. Account Res. 1999;6:259-310.

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.

Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ALS, MS, epilepsy and 10+ other diseases all have this in common

It looks like Ajinomoto is fighting tooth and nail, pulling out all the stops to convince the public that their brain damaging (excitotoxic) monosodium glutamate (MSG) is harmless. They’re pouring millions of dollars into buying advertising space in newspapers throughout the world, issuing press releases, covertly publishing YouTube commercials dressed up as news, buying testimonials from celebrity chef, sports personalities, and good-looking young women who call themselves “sci moms.” They’ve mastered brainwashing on social media. Yet people keep getting sick after eating MSG. Not everyone, of course, just lots of people. And Ajinomoto’s MSG sales have been slipping.

There’s something else, too. Scientists are beginning to realize that somehow glutamate has something to do with increases in Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke, ALS, autism, schizophrenia, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), epilepsy, ischemic stroke, seizures, Huntington’s disease, addiction, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), frontotemporal dementia, and autism. No one has yet identified a cause and effect relationship, but the scientific community now recognizes that glutamate is associated with each of them. Data? A January 18, 2020 Medine search (www.pubmed.gov) for “glutamate-induced,” returned 3742 references.

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.

$cience for sale

If you’ve seen one creative combination of brain-washing and out-and-out lies, you’ve seen them all.

But this article that appeared in Food Safety Magazine is special. Special because Andrew G. Ebert signed his name to it. To appreciate why “Whatever Happened to Sound Food Science” is so special – so poetic — you have to know that Andrew G. Ebert was Ajinomoto’s “scientist” in the United States rigging studies of the safety of MSG so that his researchers could claim “once more” they had been unable to find anything that suggested MSG was toxic.

You can read all about Big Food’s friend “Andy Ebert” on our webpage. We call him “The Architect of it All” because he did just about everything for Ajinomoto short of manufacturing the MSG. He not only designed the rigged research for them, but put together a committee of esteemed “scientists” who walked his protocols over to the offices of the FDA and had them approved by the agency before the studies were published. Ebert faded from sight, and there were no more double-blind studies after Jack Samuels, co-founder of the Truth in Labeling Campaign, ratted on him. That’s how the Glutes do it. No apology. Not even discussion. Just ignore the evil things you’ve done and hope that no one will remember.

Read Ebert’s bio and note three things:

Andrew G. Ebert, Ph.D., FIFT, CFS, is a noted food industry pharmacologist and toxicologist. He has served as an official observer at numerous meetings of the Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Codex Alimentarius Food Standards Programme and is on the Expert Committee on Food Ingredients of the Food Chemicals Codex. He previously served on FDA’s Food Advisory Committee.

First, Ebert is everywhere, a man of good reputation, serving on committees of organizations like the World Health Organization (and testifying to the fact that MSG is “safe”); he has served on the FDA’s Food Advisory Committees (in a position reserved for consumers); and nowhere does it mention the fact that for years he was chairman of Ajinomoto’s International Glutamate Technical Committee, running their U.S. research arm while Richard Cristol ran their merchandising/propaganda campaigns.

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.

WUI: Writing under the influence

How our perceptions of what’s safe to eat are swayed by the PR industry
Guest blog by Linda Bonvie

For two days in September 2018, the Conrad Hotel in New York City hosted an invitation-only shindig where large quantities of wine flowed, lunch and dinner were served, chefs whipped up dishes in cooking presentations and experts gave talks and demonstrations — all extensively photographed and videotaped.
Leading the event was the Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods” celeb chef, Andrew Zimmern, who posed with guests for untold numbers of photos wearing his trademark round spectacles perched low on his nose.

If you took a casual look at the goings-on, it might appear to have been any other well-planned, fancy corporate convention. But it wasn’t. This was more of a boot camp for journalists and bloggers to help them effectively spread the messaging of Ajinomoto, the world’s largest producer of monosodium glutamate.

Dubbed the “World Umami Forum,” the affair took place at the mid-point in a ten-million dollar campaign spearheaded by PR giant Edelman Public Relations. Among the goals of Edelman’s client Ajinomoto is to have the press (and eventually, they hope, everyone else) start replacing the tainted name of MSG with the more pleasing umami.


From left, Gary Beauchamp, PhD, Mary Lee Chin, MS, RD, Dr. Kumiko Ninomiya, Executive Fellow Ajinomoto, Chef Chris Koetke, Takaaki Nishii, CEO and President Ajinomoto, Tia M. Rains, public relations director Ajinomoto, Ali Bouzari, Sarah Lohman, Harold McGee.

Public relations blitzes, of course, are nothing new. There were plenty of tricky PR tactics spun for the benefit of Big Tobacco. Edelman, in fact, was behind such a campaign, as detailed in the tobacco industry cache of papers uncovered during decades of litigation. Its 1978 document called “Taking the initiative on the smoking issue – a total program,” designed for RJ Reynolds, outlines several ways that “another point of view on the cigarette question” could be promoted. One plan was the creation of a “National Smokers’ News Bureau” in New York, which would “set up interviews, organize editorial briefings…and engage in extensive personal contact with media to develop specific storylines.”

What makes a modern-day Edelman storyline travel much further than those in the past, however, is reflected by the sheer number of outlets to which they’re deployed, along with a media that seems more ready, willing and able to cooperate than ever before.

Dishing out disinformation over dinner and drinks

Celeb chef Andrew Zimmern and World Umami Forum guest. (Photo Loren Wohl/AP Images)

The articles and blogs that were published as a result of the umami gathering all had an amazingly similar ring to them. Authors always seemed to drop in a mention of “Chinese restaurant syndrome,” referring to a letter sent to the New England Journal of Medicine back in 1968 as the main reason why MSG got a bad rap in the U.S. (one of Edelman/Ajinomoto’s most oft repeated, fabricated storylines).

Some of the pieces were done more creatively than others, but all managed to drive home specific key points emphasized at the umami event, dutifully repeated by writers of all stripes. But no doubt it was the headlines that made the Edelman folks smug with the satisfaction of a job well done – most especially the one that ran in the Wall Street Journal.

The story, by WSJ writer River Davis, originally appeared in the April 27, 2019 print edition of the paper under the headline “Rescuing MSG’s Unsavory Reputation” — one quickly changed online to read, “The FDA Says It’s Safe, So Feel Free to Say ‘Yes’ to MSG.”

Even the subhead was altered, adding the word “healthy” in for good measure.

Realize for a moment that here we have a top-tier newspaper switching a headline and subhead so it contains a positive string of word parings (safe, healthy, MSG, yes), and ending with a long-used PR/marketing tactic known as a call to action. That’s when the consumer is instructed to do something that will help sales, e.g., “ask your doctor,” “click here,” “call now,” or in this case, “say yes.”

Why would the WSJ do that? I attempted to find out.

Asking the question in an email to Colleen Schwartz, a communications executive at Dow Jones, I continued to poke around online, soon finding a string of shared MSG stories at the Linkedin page of Edelman SVP of Food & Beverage Gennifer Horowitz.
She had posted several of the articles published after the umami forum, most to rave reviews from colleagues. But what caught my eye was the WSJ one with the “yes” headline, commented on by a Linkedin connection of Horowitz (who previously worked with the Andrew Zimmern “brand”): “What a huge win for Ajinomoto and MSG! Congrats to the whole team!”

Hmm, what could this huge win be? Might the comment be referring to the headline swap?

I took that question directly to Schwartz, asking if the change was made at the behest of Edelman Public Relations. Schwartz emailed back almost immediately, saying she would have a response for me the next day. When the next day rolled around, she said that she needed more time, as she was “coordinating with colleagues in APAC.”

The statement she finally came back to me with was simply: “Wall Street Journal articles regularly run with different headlines in print and digital due to independent editorial preferences and space constraints. In this case, the difference in headlines is noted in the tag online: ‘Appeared in the April 27, 2019, print edition as ‘Rescuing MSG’s Unsavory Reputation.’”

Asking further questions of Schwartz proved useless. “Our statement stands – I won’t have any further comment for you,” she wrote back.

Too close for comfort

For the casual reader to know the difference between true news reporting or a writer simply giving coverage to a PR firm’s storyline isn’t easy. In the case of Edelman, its connection to the WSJ is a long and established one, even where its employees are concerned.

For example, it’s no secret that Edelman NYC brand director Nancy Jeffrey spent 10 years as a WSJ writer. Nor is Edelman’s warm and fuzzy relationship with the paper hush-hush.

As quoted in an Edelman website blog, Jeffrey recalls how Richard Edelman (son of founder Dan) would call her during her time at the paper “to meet with a client with a story to tell.” The “Edelman ethos,” Jeffrey says, is that “no one at Edelman ever rises too high to pitch a reporter.”

As for headlines, getting your messaging above the actual story may even outperform whatever the article says.

In a New Yorker story titled How headlines change the way we think, writer Maria Konnikova tells about an Australian study that found a reader’s take-away from an article is, in fact, dictated by the headline.

“By its choice of phrasing,” she writes, “a headline can influence your mindset as you read so that you later recall details that coincide with what you were expecting.”

Utilizing that concept in the digital media age can warp your mindset even more. An article that appeared in the online publication Vox a few months after the umami affair, although headlined “But what does umami taste like?” contained a snippet of code in the page so that when it’s shared online, the headline is replaced with “MSG is the purest form of umami…,” a line also used in an Ajinomoto MSG “fact sheet” and by the Glutamate Association.

Owned media, or a media owned?

Richard Edelman during an interview at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Mainstream media, said Edelman president and CEO Richard Edelman during an interview recently at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, is on its way out. He calls the “notion” that media will continue on as we know them today “fallacious.” And what will replace them? According to Edelman, that will be “owned media,” meaning outlets – whether they be websites, blogs or even Facebook or Twitter accounts – over which businesses have complete control of content.

As newsrooms shrink, he says, companies are realizing “they have to tell their own stories.”

But considering how firms such as Edelman can enable companies that can afford a big PR tab to tell their own story anyway, will that really make much of a difference?

If Edelman has a catchphrase, it would probably be the Edelman Master Narrative, a.k.a. “the most important story you have to tell.”

Of course, when your client is Ajinomoto, that “story” will never include mention of the fact that MSG – a totally manufactured additive – is “excitotoxic,” meaning it can cause brain damage. It won’t disclose how MSG can trigger lifelong adverse reactions in an unborn child when a pregnant woman consumes food that contains the additive. Or that MSG, which always comes along with impurities in the finished product, is not identical to the glutamate in the human body and does not occur naturally in unprocessed foods. You won’t hear that MSG can cause a long list of adverse events (at levels that vary considerably from person to person), which can affect organs from the brain, to the heart, to the lungs to the bowels.

Do the folks at Edelman know this? Perhaps.

As reported in Gawker a decade ago, an unnamed PR executive “tipster” told how at an Edelman upper-management training session, attendees were told: “Sometimes you just have to stand up there and lie. Make the audience or the reporter believe that everything is OK.”

This is an excerpt from “A Consumer’s Guide to Toxic Food Additives: How to Avoid Synthetic Sweeteners, Artificial Colors, MSG, and More,” by Linda and Bill Bonvie, to be released March, 2020, Skyhorse Publishing.