PROPAGANDA 101: The 8 ingredients in cutting edge propaganda

Monosodium glutamate contains manufactured free glutamic acid (glutamate), a free amino acid that can kill brain cells, disrupt the endocrine system, and cause adverse reactions such as migraine headache, asthma, a-fib, tachycardia, and seizures.

The first data pertaining to toxicity of manufactured/processed free glutamate (MfG) can be found in studies going back to the 1940s, with the first ones related to glutamate-induced retinal degeneration dating from the 1950s. The first research to rock the boat for Ajinomoto, Inc. (the world’s largest producer of MSG), came from John Olney’s study “Brain lesions, obesity, and other disturbances in mice treated with monosodium glutamate,” shown to Ajinomoto in 1968, and published in 1969 in Science.

The 1969 report of brain damage was followed by five decades of research where it was demonstrated repeatedly that ingestion of MfG will cause brain damage, endocrine disorders, and observable adverse reactions; that free glutamate accumulated in inter-cellular spaces in the brain will cause brain damage; and that accumulations of free glutamate are associated with abnormalities such as addiction, stroke, epilepsy, degenerative disorders (Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, and Parkinson’s disease, for example), brain trauma, neuropathic pain, schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression, jointly referred to as the “glutamate cascade.”

Data that confirm that free glutamate, monosodium glutamate, and hydrolyzed proteins cause brain damage and neuroendocrine disorders can be accessed at the Truth in Labeling website.

Discussion of flawed glutamate-industry studies can also be found at the TLC site. The story of glutamate-industry suppression of data, “The toxicity/safety of processed free glutamic acid (MSG): A study in suppression of information,” published in 1999 in Accountability in Research, can be read online by clicking here.

Since 1968, the glutamate industry has vigorously denied monosodium glutamate toxicity. Their use of scientists-for-hire, rigged research, infiltration of government agencies, control of major media, and a propaganda campaign second to none, has paid off for them as witnessed by the fact that so many are buying into the fiction that the toxicity of monosodium glutamate, and the toxicity of its glutamic acid are controversial.

On January 28, 2019, the SciShow on YouTube, hosted by Stefan Chin, gave us one of the finest examples of glutamate-industry propaganda seen to date, designed to convince its audience that monosodium glutamate is a harmless food additive. Chin’s recipe for deception is classic. 

Ingredient 1.  Talk fast.  Say positive things about monosodium glutamate. Some of those good things may contradict one another, but it doesn’t matter because the audience will hear a series of confident statements and won’t have time to notice the inconsistencies.  

Ingredient 2.  Acknowledge that research on monosodium glutamate’s “safety” has been found questionable by some.  Don’t make an issue of it, just acknowledge the criticism so no one can say that you ignored critical studies.  Then simply say that science disagrees.  No need to offer evidence.  Just plant the seed that science says monosodium glutamate is safe.

Ingredient 3.  Paint a glowing picture of monosodium glutamate.  Use affirmative words and phrases in your discussion.  Whether they are relevant or not makes no difference.  Whether they make sense or are random phrases does not matter.  Make no mention of any negatives.  Your audience should have positive thoughts and take away positive images of monosodium glutamate.

Some of the phrases, statements, and images that Chin associates with monosodium glutamate include:

“Purified MSG”
“MSG is umami in its purest form”
“For love of MSG”
“Savory taste”
“The savory taste that’s taking over the culinary scene”
“A building block of protein”
“Culinary gold”
“Ubiquitous in kitchens”
“Gone global”
“A staple”
“Universal love for MSG”
“Team umami”
“You’ve been team umami from the get-go”
“Love of MSG comes from biology”
“In vertebrates”

While mentioning the positive roles that glutamate plays when not present in amounts needed to produce excitotoxicity, its role as an excitatory neurotransmitter is subtlety mentioned and goosed over.  There is no mention of the fact that this excitatory neurotransmitter kills brain cells, disrupts the endocrine system, causes adverse reactions like migraine headache, seizures, a-fib, tachycardia, asthma and more, and is known to play a role in neurodegenerative diseases including ALS and Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, depression, and all the other abnormalities considered to be part of the glutamate cascade.

Ingredient 4. Once the picture has been drawn and the scene has been set, begin to twist the truth in a fashion that isn’t obvious.  Chin starts by pairing the terms monosodium glutamate and umami, glutamate and umami, and glutamate and monosodium glutamate.  Psychologists call this process “conditioning.”  Others might call it “brain washing.”

“Umami” is a word used for centuries by the Japanese to denote a really good taste of something – a taste or flavor that exemplifies the flavor of a food.  Umami is a descriptive term.  It’s an adjective.  It’s not a “thing,” it describes a thing.  Chin builds the case for using the word “umami” as a synonym for “monosodium glutamate.” He also uses “umami” as a synonym for “glutamate,” calling “glutamate receptors” “umami receptors.”  Throughout the balance of his presentation, Chin uses “glutamate,” “monosodium glutamate,” and “umami” almost interchangeably.

From twisting the truth, Chin moves to misrepresentations, half-truth, and blatant lies. 

Ingredient 5. Misrepresentations

To make a “misrepresentation” simply means to state as a fact something which is false or untrue.  To be considered fraudulent, a misrepresentation must be false, and it must be material in the sense that it relates to a matter of some importance or significance rather than a minor or trivial detail.

Ingredient 6. Half-truths.

The legal definition of a “half-truth” is to omit or withhold a statement of fact, knowledge of which is necessary to make other statements not misleading. It would be a material omission if it relates to a matter of some importance or significance rather than a minor or trivial detail.  A material omission is one of the components of fraud.

Ingredient 7.  Blatant lies.   

The following are examples of misrepresentations, half-truths, and lies, taken from Chin’s “The truth about MSG and your health” propaganda piece.  These are common to glutamate-industry propaganda.

“Glutamate is an important building block for protein.  And it also helps nerve cells send signals to other cells in the body.  It’s the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter in vertebrates.  Since it’s so important for our bodies…”

OMITTED: Since 1957, and particularly since 1968, there have been growing numbers of studies documenting brain damage, endocrine disorders, and adverse reactions following ingestion of MSG. The glutamate cascade has been implicated in such disease conditions as addiction, stroke, epilepsy, degenerative disorders (Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, and Parkinson’s disease), brain trauma, neuropathic pain, schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression.

“Purified MSG wasn’t a thing until 1908” when a Japanese chemist realized that the base made from kombu seaweed in his soup imparted a delicious flavor ….”

MISREPRESENTATION: What is “purified MSG?”  The flavor enhancing component of monosodium glutamate is the L-glutamic acid that was once extracted from protein-rich foods and is now produced in large part by genetically modified bacteria which excrete glutamic acid through their cell walls.  When L-glutamic acid is produced/manufactured by either method, unwanted by-products of manufacture (impurities) inevitably accompany the sought-after L-glutamic acid. Two of those impurities are D-glutamic acid and pyroglutamic acid.  Other impurities depend on the source material used in producing the L-glutamic acid and the method of production.  Moreover, to date, efforts to remove the impurities accompanying L-glutamic acid have been unsuccessful.  Which begs the question, what exactly is “purified MSG?”

“Studies have shown that umami functions as a flavor enhancer, creating a harmony between various flavors ….”  “A 2007 study published in the European Journal of Neuroscience….wherein the brain activity map lit up more from the combo of drinks….”

OMITTED: Studies demonstrating that monosodium glutamate and other products that contain processed free glutamic acid cause brain lesions, endocrine disorders, and observable adverse reactions.

“It’s an amino acid that the human body can synthesize glutamate, but that we also get from our food.”

OMITTED: There is no need for humans to ingest glutamate should the body be deficient, because glutamate can be synthesized from other amino acids. 

“While you’ve might have been told that it’s bad for you, or causes the so called Chinese restaurant syndrome, Science disagrees.”

FACT: Independent scientists have either read the scientific literature and concluded that monosodium glutamate kills brain cells, is an endocrine disruptor, and causes adverse reactions, or have no opinion on the subject.  It is only those scientists who are employed by the glutamate industry who maintain that monosodium glutamate is a harmless food additive.

“MSG stands for monosodium glutamate, the sodium salt of glutamate”

FACT:  Monosodium glutamate is a manufactured ingredient/product.  Glutamate is the sodium salt of glutamic acid.  Monosodium glutamate contains glutamate, the sodium salt of glutamic acid.

“Since it’s so important for our bodies, it’s not surprising we’ve evolved a taste for it.”

MISREPRESENTATION: “evolved a taste for it” as in “evolution?”

FACT:  Certain glutamate receptors on the tongue have been called “umami receptors by Ajinomoto.  As marketing professionals would say, they’ve been given a name and been branded.

“We have umami-specific receptors on or tongues and in our stomachs”

FACT:  There are glutamate receptors throughout the human body.  In 2009, Chaudhari, Pereira, and Roper stated that “Over the past 15 years, several receptors have been proposed to underlie umami detection in taste buds.”

“And these drive our love for foods that contain glutamates”

FACT:  This is so irrelevant it isn’t even a misrepresentation.

“And umami-rich foods have been staples in human diets forever.”

FACT:  Glutamate-rich foods (which would necessarily be protein-rich foods) have been staples in human diets for centuries.  Umami is an adjective that means flavorful or delicious.

“It all started with a 1968 letter to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.”

FACT: In 1968, the same year that Dr. Ho Man Kwok published his letter to the editor in the New England Journal of Medicine, John Olney, M.D., determined that monosodium glutamate administered to mice caused brain damage and endocrine disruption. Olney reached out to Ajinomoto U.S.A., Inc. to discuss his findings.  In response, Ajinomoto established a nonprofit corporation, recruited scientists and others to defend the safety of its product, and unleashed a powerful public relations campaign.  Ajinomoto’s researchers claimed to be replicating the animal work of Olney and others who found monosodium glutamate-induced toxicity, but their researchers did not actually replicate. Although it had been established that brain lesions could not be identified if examination was not done within 24 hours after insult, glutamate-industry researchers routinely examined the brains of test animals after 24 hours had elapsed. They also used inappropriate methods and materials for staining the material they were examining.

In the 1980s, human double-blind studies were undertaken, from which glutamate-industry researchers would claim they found no adverse effects from ingestion of monosodium glutamate.  For these studies, glutamate-industry researchers used of a variety of techniques virtually guaranteeing negative results — lacing placebos with aspartame being their fail-safe.

“The idea took hold, spurring years of biased science based on the flawed assumption that CRS was a real thing, and that MSG caused it.”

FACT: The idea that monosodium glutamate causes adverse reactions such a migraine headache followed the fact that a great number of people suffered migraines and other abnormalities after eating something containing monosodium glutamate.

FACT: “biased science,” “flawed assumption,” and “flawed assumption that CRS was a real thing” are some of the undefined negative phrases used in glutamate-industry propaganda to paint a negative image of those who challenge the safety of monosodium glutamate.

“Double-blinded placebo controlled studies…have failed to find a reproducible response to ingesting foods with MSG.”

FACT: Glutamate-industry studies have been rigged to “fail to find” responses to ingesting foods with MSG.  For further details look here.

Following recitation of misrepresentations, half-truths, and blatant lies, Chin moved to degrading those who have observed that monosodium glutamate and other ingredients that contain excitotoxic glutamic acid have toxic potential.  The following paragraph was taken from the video.  Emphasis has been added to point to negative references.

“While our love of MSG comes from biology, a lot of people’s aversion to it seems to have roots in something else entirely. Racism.  It all started with a 1968 letter to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine…. The idea took hold, spurring years of biased science based on the flawed assumption that CRS was a real thing, and that MSG caused it.  Subsequent animal studies seemingly confirmed the idea, but these often consisted of injecting super concentrated doses of MSG directly into creature’s abdomen, which isn’t exactly a scientific approach to determining the effects of MSG sprinkled into saucepans.  More recently research on MSG aversion has taken into account the xenophobia and racism that fueled it.  And over the last 3 decades, a number of double-blinded placebo-controlled studies, including studies of subjects with reported sensitivity to MSG, have failed to find a reproducible response to ingesting foods with MSG.”

Chin’s last sentence is priceless.  Those double-blind placebo-controlled studies were certainly “placebo controlled.”  The placebos used invariably contained excitotoxic aspartame (in aspartame) or another excitotoxic amino acid, making it inevitable that there would be as many reactions to the placebo as there were to the monosodium glutamate test material.  As early as 1978, Ajinomoto’s placebos were being laced with aspartame.

And those “subjects with reported sensitivity to MSG”?  They were college students and/or medical school students who were paid generously to participate in the studies provided that they said they were sensitive to MSG. No one verified that they were actually sensitive to MSG.

Ingredient 8.  Conclude with discussion of some positive thing that the glutamate industry is doing.  Chin tells the audience that “Investigation into the potential health benefits of MSG is ongoing…”

The only ingredient that Chin seems to have failed to include in his recipe for deception was The Whopper — the lie that we aren’t exposed to enough MfG in processed foods to cause us any harm.

Recipe for deception

Monosodium glutamate is produced in the United States by the Ajinomoto, Co., Inc., which happens to be the world’s largest manufacturer of monosodium glutamate.

You may not appreciate the product that they sell, but you really should appreciate the ingenuity of their marketing — their sure-fire recipe for deception. This rich and powerful corporation twists the truth, misrepresents what is true and tells half-truths so very cleverly that its deceptions go largely unnoticed. Monsanto, the corn refiners (the high fructose corn syrup people), and the companies that made the artificial sweetener aspartame before Ajinomoto took it over, haven’t been nearly as clever as Ajinomoto in keeping their products from being the subjects of negative publicity.

As an example, here are nine “game plans,” tactics that have proven to be pure genius in the way they’ve managed to hoodwink consumers into believing MSG is a safe and natural product:

# 1:  MSG is a poison that those in the flavor-enhancer industry maintain is perfectly safe. And here’s one way they skirt an out-and-out lie to do it — they never say that research shows that their product is safe, but rather claim that “Another study has failed to find that monosodium glutamate is harmful.”  What they don’t tell you is that they’ve rigged all their studies to produce favorable results (failing to find…), going so far as to lace their placebos with aspartic acid, an excitotoxin found in aspartame.  And if those studies don’t come out as planned, they are simply not published.

# 2: Research presented as evidence that monosodium glutamate is a harmless food additive has often been characterized as the “gold standard” — that is, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies.  But if you review those studies, you’ll find that the subjects were not drawn randomly from a defined population (a necessary condition given the statistical tests used), and that, in fact, the only random factor in those studies might have been the order in which subjects who were administered both test and placebo materials were given those materials.

It is a known fact that since 1978, if not before, placebos used in Ajinomoto’s double-blind studies had been laced with aspartic acid (in aspartame), an additive that kills brain cells and causes virtually the same adverse reactions as the glutamic acid in monosodium glutamate.  One could, therefore, say with certainty, that the outcomes of the studies were skillfully manipulated — “controlled” — through the use of such placebos.

# 3: Chinese Restaurant Syndrome was the name given by editors to a 1968 article in the New England Journal of Medicine. In that article, Dr. Ho Man Kwok noted that after eating in a restaurant serving Northern Chinese food, he suffered three adverse reactions: numbness, tingling, and tightness of the chest that lasted for approximately two hours. Ajinomoto seized on this one man’s report of adverse reactions, and proceeded to act as though these were the only reactions caused by monosodium glutamate.  For example, when subjects in certain double-blind studies did not react to monosodium glutamate treatment with numbness, tingling, or tightness of the chest, researchers would claim that once again it had been showed that monosodium glutamate is a harmless food additive. Other adverse reactions known to follow monosodium glutamate ingestion, rapid heartbeat, brain fog, and seizures, for example, would not have been considered.

# 4: A number of glutamate-industry studies used “well subjects” in their experiments, without defining “well subjects.’’  Only careful reading of a number of those studies will reveal that “well subjects” are people who have never experienced any of the reactions known to be caused by ingestion of MSG.  These aren’t just healthy subjects — these are people who don’t react to monosodium glutamate (at least at the levels given to them).  These people will be given monosodium glutamate and, as expected, won’t react.  And glutamate-industry researchers running the study will claim that “Another study has failed to find that monosodium glutamate is harmful.” 

# 5: A number of glutamate-industry studies were alleged to have been done using subjects who were sensitive to monosodium glutamate. In truth, subjects in these studies were volunteers, often university or medical school students, paid handsomely to participate — but only if they claimed to be sensitive to monosodium glutamate. 

# 6: While companies like Monsanto represent themselves in defending the value of their products, until relatively recently Ajinomoto, a Japanese company, had Americans acting on their behalf, without mentioning Ajinomoto by name. Subtle though it may be, it’s not easy to criticize, or even think about something that doesn’t have a name.

# 7: It is said that authoritative bodies around the world have agreed that monosodium glutamate is a harmless food additive – and that’s true — sort of.  Not revealed is the fact that those authoritative bodies did no research of their own. Instead, with rare exception, they were given material that had been produced and approved by the glutamate industry, and delivered by the glutamate industry’s International Glutamate Technical Committee (IGTC), or its agents. That includes material provided by the FDA, an agency with close ties to the glutamate industry.

# 8: Glutamate-industry agents take every opportunity to make legitimate research look bad.  They will refer to studies wherein glutamate was administered to laboratory animals with phrases such as “…animal studies … often consisted of injecting super concentrated doses of MSG directly into creature’s abdomen…,” ignoring the fact that there are many studies that demonstrate that when monosodium glutamate is fed to laboratory animals, it causes brain damage and endocrine disorders such as obesity and infertility.

# 9: As of this writing, it is quite prevalent for MSG propaganda to say that “It all started with a 1968 letter to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine” (the letter from Dr. Ho Man Kwok mentioned above).  In actuality, Ajinomoto’s defense of monosodium glutamate did begin in 1968, but it wasn’t about anything as benign-sounding as “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.” It was in response to research done by John Olney, M.D. of Washington University in St. Louis, which demonstrated that monosodium glutamate causes brain damage and endocrine disorders in unborn and newborn mice. 

Although Olney’s findings were not published until 1969, he had shared them with Ajinomoto prior to publication.