The art of hiding MfG

Artists don’t just paint, sing, play an instrument or act. Some of the best artists out there utilize their talents to deceive you.

At the Truth in Labeling Campaign we’ve run into many great artists working in public relations firms. They understand human nature and can paint word pictures to sell you almost anything.

We’ve met men and women who have elevated lying to an art form. And rarely do their targets know that they’re being deceived. Then there are the marketing people who often employ a variety of specialized artists to push their products.

Some who hide manufactured free glutamate (MfG), the toxic ingredient in MSG, do it cleverly but not creatively. They use distraction to draw your focus away from the dangers of their product, talking about the benefits of low salt, muscle building, or the umami flavor. And they’ll very likely use ingredients that you’re not going to recognize as containing MfG.

Ingredients called “glutamic acid” and “disodium inosinate” are prime examples. You’ll find them in flavor enhancers like Braggs Aminos and soups and bouillon like Minor’s soup bases.

Not to be overlooked are those who sell products containing MfG to bakeries and restaurants claiming that their products are free of MSG, and the bakeries and restaurants that use those products as though they contained no MfG. Those businesses don’t routinely display the names of ingredients used in their products, and some are proud to make the misleading claim that they don’t use MSG (the name that most consumers give to all ingredients that contain MfG). That’s not even artful lying. It’s just a subterfuge.

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 and follow us on Twitter @truthlabeling.

MSG reactions aren’t allergies!

Reactions to MSG and other sources of manufactured free glutamate (MfG) are reactions to poison. They’re not allergic reactions, and the rules for allergies don’t apply.

You may hear people refer to an “MSG allergy,” but that’s incorrect. And allergists aren’t the ones to ask about your reactions to MSG.

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 and follow us on Twitter @truthlabeling.

Cutting through industry’s maze of lies about monosodium glutamate (MSG): Seven essential truths

1: MSG is manufactured. It isn’t found naturally in anything.

2: The toxic ingredient contained in MSG is manufactured glutamic acid — glutamic acid that is mass-produced in chemical plants.

3: The same toxic free glutamic acid found in MSG is also found in some 40-plus other ingredients.

4: Glutamic acid becomes excitotoxic (killing cells throughout the body) when present in amounts that exceed what’s needed for normal body function.

5: The average American diet of processed food (all kinds, not just “junk food”), contains more than enough free glutamic acid to cause glutamate to become excitotoxic. /

6: When glutamate becomes excitotoxic, four types of abnormalities can follow:

7: The dose needed to cause these reactions varies widely from person to person.

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 and follow us on Twitter @truthlabeling.

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about MSG

Definition of terms:

Monosodium glutamate (MSG): A flavor enhancing ingredient used primarily in food.

MfG: Processed free glutamic acid – the neurotoxic component of monosodium glutamate and 40+ other ingredients.

What is monosodium glutamate?

Monosodium glutamate is a manufactured product, produced in food processing and/or chemical plants.

It is composed of L-glutamic acid (L-glutamate), D-glutamic acid (D-glutamate), additional impurities, and sodium.

The L-glutamate in monosodium glutamate is a patented product.

The commercial value of monosodium glutamate lies in its ability to stimulate (swell) glutamate receptors in the mouth and on the tongue—causing consumers to perceive more taste than the food being consumed would have if it had not been enhanced.

Monosodium glutamate contains:

  • L-glutamic acid – its active ingredient,
  • Impurities — unwanted, but unavoidable by-products of production: D-Glutamic acid – the D-enantiomer of glutamic acid; Pyroglutamic acid — a breakdown product of glutamic acid; assorted other by-products, and
  • Sodium

What is glutamic acid?

Glutamic acid (often referred to as glutamate) is one of the many amino acids found in protein. When present in protein, it is tied to (bound to) other amino acids in chains.

Glutamic acid is found in most protein. Following ingestion of protein, and during the course of normal digestion, glutamic acid is released, becoming free glutamic acid.

If sufficient amounts of free glutamic acid are not available for normal body function, the body can create glutamic acid from other amino acids. Humans do not need to eat glutamic acid or eat protein that contains glutamic acid in order to supply the body with the glutamic acid that it needs. For that reason, glutamic acid is referred to as a “non essential” amino acid.

Glutamic acid has many faces.

First, and foremost, glutamic acid is a building block of protein. Amino acids are what proteins are made up of.

Second, glutamic acid is a neurotransmitter: a chemical agent that carries nerve impulses from one nerve to another. Neurotransmitters are the brain chemicals that move information, relaying signals between nerve cells, and from nerve cells to non-nerve cells. The brain uses neurotransmitters to tell your heart to beat, your lungs to breathe, and your stomach to digest. Neurotransmitters also affect mood, sleep, concentration and weight; and can cause adverse symptoms when out of balance.

Third, glutamic acid is an excitatory neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters are either excitatory or inhibitory, and glutamic acid is excitatory — exciting the cells with which it communicates. Glutamic acid is the most common excitatory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system.

Fourth, glutamic acid is an excitotoxin, causing nerves to fire repeatedly, overstimulating receptor cells (both neurons and non-neurons) until receptor cells die. Glutamic acid functions as an excitotoxin when it over-stimulates brain cells, or cells outside of the central nervous system, to the point of killing them.

Glutamic acid has toxic potential

Excessive glutamate release within the body can lead to excitotoxicity, causing cell death resulting in seizures, for example. Excitotoxicity has been implicated in certain chronic diseases including ischemic stroke, epilepsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington disease, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), seizures, addiction, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism and Parkinson’s disease. Glutamate released within the body as in stroke kills cells but not necessarily brain cells.

Excessive glutamate ingested as a free amino acid (not bound with other amino acids in protein) can lead to excitotoxicity, causing brain damage and subsequent endocrine disorders and adverse reaction when passed to fetuses (the unborn) and/or infants by pregnant or lactating women. Similarly, any human or animal whose brain has been damaged, or whose blood brain barrier is undeveloped, aged, or vulnerable because of prior damage may suffer brain damage from ingestion of excessive amounts of glutamate.

Glutamic acid excitotoxicity is the process that underlies the damage done by monosodium glutamate.

What is L-glutamic acid?

Glutamic acid is one of some 20+ amino acids found in protein. Just as humans have two hands, glutamic acid has two enantiomers (chemically identical molecules with the L-enantiomer being the mirror image of the D-enantiomer). Although they appear to be identical twins these molecules are fundamentally different; for one molecule cannot be superimposed on its mirror image. One molecular twin cannot be substituted for the other because they are asymmetrical. The difference is comparable to asymmetry between your right and left hands. One is a mirror image of the other, but you cannot fit your right hand into a left-hand glove.

It is generally recognized that the free amino acids and proteins found in higher organisms are composed exclusively of the L-enantiomers of amino acids. The mirror image D-forms are only known to be present in some naturally occurring peptide antibiotics and in the cell walls of bacteria.

L-glutamic acid can be fabricated. In the beginning L-glutamic acid in monosodium glutamate was produced by extraction – extracting the glutamic acid from an intact protein source (milk or seaweed, for example). After 1957, however, the method of choice for producing monosodium glutamate changed. Today, most (if not all) monosodium glutamate production is based on the growth of a carefully selected strain of genetically modified bacteria that will excrete glutamic acid through their cell walls. Other methods used to fabricate L-glutamic acid make use of enzymes, autolysis, bacterial fermentation, acid hydrolysis of protein, and production of reaction flavors.

Impurities in L-glutamic acid and monosodium glutamate.

The essence of flavor-enhancing monosodium glutamate is its L-glutamic acid; for it is L-glutamic acid that stimulates the glutamate receptors in the mouth and on the tongue to give the consumer the perception of enhanced flavor in food being eaten. Specifically, it is the L-enantiomer (L-glutamic acid), not the D-enantiomer, that has flavor-enhancing potential. So anything other than the L-glutamic acid produced when monosodium glutamate is produced would appropriately be considered an unwanted by-product of monosodium glutamate production (an impurity).

Without exception, when monosodium glutamate is produced, impurities accompany manufacture. Industry has found no way of producing L-glutamic acid and monosodium glutamate without also producing impurities. Neither has industry found a way to remove impurities from manufactured L-glutamic acid and monosodium glutamate.

The subject of impurities in monosodium glutamate was elaborated in a Bulletin of the Japanese Central Customs Laboratory in 1977. (PDF file)

Regardless of how it is produced, be it by hydrolysis, enzymolysis, autolysis, fermentation, or other, impurities will always accompany production of L-glutamic acid, hydrolyzed protein products, autolyzed yeasts, maltodextrin, monosodium glutamate, and all the other products that contain processed free glutamic acid. The exact nature of the impurities will vary according to the source material used and the method(s) used in production.

  • D-glutamic acid

D-glutamic acid is the second of the two molecules that make up glutamic acid.

As is true of all amino acids, the glutamic acid molecule is chiral, i.e., it is an object that is different from its reflection. At one time no thought was given to the possibility that there might be more than a structural difference, i.e. asymmetry, between chiral molecules. But over time, it was determined that the physiological properties of the two molecules also differ.

The case of thalidomide provides a perfect example. Thalidomide is a sedative drug that was prescribed for pregnant women from 1957 into the early 60s. When taken during the first trimester of pregnancy, thalidomide prevented the proper growth of the fetus, resulting in horrific birth defects in thousands of children around the world. The reason? The Thalidomide molecule is chiral, and the drug that was marketed was a 50/50 mixture of L-form and D-form. One of the molecules was a sedative, whereas the second one caused fetal abnormalities.

  • Pyroglutamic acid

It may very well be that pyroglutamic acid holds the key to understanding glutamate toxicity. While there is no body of research focusing on the role of pyroglutamic acid in glutamate toxicity, there is research that speaks to pyroglutamic acid toxicity. There is also research that demonstrates that pyroglutamic acid can produce many of the same adverse events as produced by monosodium glutamate and the other ingredients that contain processed free glutamic acid. Add to that mix of information the facts that pyroglutamic acid can occur as a breakdown product of glutamic acid, and the fact that when L-glutamic acid is manufactured, pyroglutamic acid accompanies it as an unwanted by-product.

What evidence is there that monosodium glutamate has toxic potential?

It has been demonstrated repeatedly that it is processed (manufactured) free glutamic acid, i.e., L-glutamic acid plus impurities, that, when ingested, can cause brain damage, endocrine disorders (obesity and reproductive disorders) and adverse reactions such as asthma, heart irregularities, skin rash, and migraine headache. Glutamic acid bound in protein does not cause brain damage, endocrine disorders, or adverse reactions. When protein – whole protein — is ingested, that protein is digested, and the glutamic acid once bound up in that protein is released – without causing adverse events. It is only glutamic acid that has been freed from protein before it is ingested that causes adverse events.

Processed free glutamic acid causes adverse events regardless of the way in which it was processed or the ingredients in which it is found. The processed free glutamic acid in ingredients called “L-glutamic acid” and “hydrolyzed whey protein” will cause the same sorts of adverse events as those caused by the ingredient called “monosodium glutamate.”

Over the past 25 years, research has demonstrated that the role of sodium in monosodium glutamate does not impact monosodium glutamate’s toxic potential. It remains, therefore, that the manufactured free L-glutamic acid and/or its accompanying impurities are monosodium glutamate’s excitotoxins. The toxic component in monosodium glutamate is its processed (manufactured) free glutamic acid, which is always composed of L-glutamic acid, D-glutamic acid, pyroglutamic acid, and miscellaneous additional impurities.

Retinal degeneration

In 1957, Lucas and Newhouse first noticed that severe retinal lesions could be produced in suckling mice (and to some extent in adult mice) by a single injection of glutamate. Studies confirming their findings using neonatal rodents and adult rabbits followed shortly, with others being reported from time to time. In 2002, Ohguro et al. found that rats fed 10 grams of sodium glutamate (97.5% sodium glutamate and 2.5% sodium ribonucleotide) added to a 100 gram daily diet for as little as 3 months had a significant increase in amount of glutamic acid in vitreous, had damage to the retina, and had deficits in retinal function. Some time later, Ohguro et al. documented the cumulative effect of damage caused by daily ingestion of glutamate.

Early animal studies

In the late 60s, Olney became suspicious that obesity in mice, which had been observed after neonatal mice were treated with monosodium glutamate for purposes of inducing and studying retinal pathology, might be associated with hypothalamic lesions caused by monosodium glutamate treatment; and in 1969 he first reported that monosodium glutamate treatment did indeed cause brain lesions, particularly acute neuronal necrosis in several regions of the developing brain of neonatal mice, and acute lesions in the brains of adult mice. Research that followed confirmed that monosodium glutamate, which was routinely given as monosodium glutamate (brand name Accent), induces hypothalamic damage when given to immature animals after either subcutaneous or oral doses.

Human studies and reports of adverse reactions

What we know about monosodium glutamate toxicity and where it is hidden in food comes from discussions with researchers and food technologists; reading food encyclopedias, books, food company brochures, and published articles; attending food industry meetings; and from MSG-sensitive people and the health care professionals who work so valiantly to help them. In addition to research documenting adverse reactions to monosodium glutamate and the other ingredients that contain toxic processed free glutamic acid, there is evidence from consumers who report that their adverse reactions ameliorate/disappear when they clean all sources of processed free glutamic acid out of their diets.

The industry cover-up

Animal research: 1970-1980

When Olney and others demonstrated that monosodium glutamate causes brain lesions and causes neuroendocrine disorders in maturing animals fed monosodium glutamate as neonates and infants, glutamate industry researchers produced studies that they claimed were failed attempted replications; but their procedures were different enough to guarantee that toxic doses had not been administered, or that all evidence that nerve cells had died would be obscured. Industry-sponsored researchers said they were replicating studies, but did not do so. Instead, discussion was phrased to suggest that studies were “replications,” and the conclusions were based on what was said, not on the studies.

Examination of the methodology sections of representative studies by Newman, Reynolds, and Stegink will demonstrate that subjects, test materials, overall procedures, and/or methods of analysis differed from the studies being “replicated.” For example, 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.

Of particular interest were a study by Stegink et al. and a study by Reynolds, Butler, and Lemkey-Johnston. Careful examination will show that researchers used a single slide of the brain of one animal as evidence that free glutamic acid failed to produce brain damage in two different monkeys.

The work that demonstrates that glutamic acid causes brain lesions and neuroendocrine disorders in experimental animals has been replicated many times by independent neuroscientists – neuroscientists not funded by Ajinomoto and friends. In contrast, every published study sponsored by the glutamate industry has concluded that glutamic acid is “safe.” In 1981, Nemeroff, reviewing studies of the safety/toxicity of monosodium glutamate stated unequivocally that “…not one single [primate] study has truly replicated the methods utilized by Olney, making evaluation of the available [industry] data impossible.”

By 1980, researchers were using monosodium glutamate as an ablative tool with which to selectively kill brain cells in laboratory animals in order to develop drugs with which to counter the effects of glutamic acid in neurodegenerative disease. At that point, industry simply stopped talking about the safety of administering monosodium glutamate to laboratory animals.

Human research – the double-blind studies

In the 1980s, faced with overwhelming evidence that monosodium glutamate kills brain cells in laboratory animals, industry researchers changed their strategy. They began to claim that animal studies were not relevant to humans. They initiated a series of double-blind human studies that, they said, “proved” that monosodium glutamate was safe.

Detailed analysis of these double-blind studies revealed that subjects, materials used, and protocols for administering test and placebo material, minimized the chance that subjects would react to the monosodium glutamate test material; and that if subjects did react to the monosodium glutamate test material, they would also react to material that glutamate-industry researchers called “placebos.”

Industry researchers:

  1. Used variables and methods known to minimize or be irrelevant to identification of the toxic effects of glutamic acid; then concluded that glutamic acid never produces adverse effects. Studies focused on the relationship between “objective” parameters such as blood pressure and body temperature and ingestion of monosodium glutamate. But unless monosodium glutamate sensitive people are studied, one cannot legitimately draw conclusions about the relationship of the variables being studied (no matter how objective they are) to people who are sensitive to monosodium glutamate. Often, these studies were used to “prove” that people who are not sensitive to monosodium glutamate are not sensitive to monosodium glutamate.
  2. Limited the recorded adverse effects to a few generally mild and transitory reactions occurring simultaneously, such as those first reported in 1968 by Kwok and dubbed “Chinese-restaurant syndrome” (CRS): “…numbness at the back of the neck, gradually radiating to both arms and the back, general weakness and palpitation.” Industry researchers do not talk about migraine headache, asthma, tachycardia, arrhythmia, depression, anxiety attacks or other obviously debilitating and/or life-threatening reactions reported since 1968.
  3. Made no attempt during a study to prevent subjects from ingesting food to which they might be allergic or sensitive — thus increasing the chance that there might be MSG-reactions at times when placebo material had been given.
  4. Recorded reactions as reactions to monosodium glutamate or placebo material only if they occurred two hours or less following ingestion of test or placebo material, even though many symptoms are commonly expressed much later, and reactions may persist for much longer periods.
  5. Failed to report all data.
  6. Drew conclusions that did not follow from the results of the studies. International Glutamate Technical Committee (IGTC) researchers concluded, for example, that because approximately one third of their subjects reacted adversely to placebos containing aspartame or glutamate-containing ingredients other than monosodium glutamate, they had “proved” that reactions to monosodium glutamate-containing test material are not reactions to monosodium glutamate.
  7. Used test material that would minimize the adverse effects of glutamic acid test material. One gram monosodium glutamate encased in capsules, and therefore guaranteeing slow release, will cause less effect than 1gram monosodium glutamate sprinkled on food; and 1gram monosodium glutamate modified with sucrose will cause less effect than otherwise because sucrose is known to slow monosodium glutamate uptake.
  8. Continued subjects on medications that might block the effects of monosodium glutamate.
  9. Using placebos to which monosodium glutamate-sensitive people would react (placebos containing aspartame, carrageenan, enzymes, or some form of processed free glutamic acid found in ingredients other than monosodium glutamate, for example), researchers tested potential subjects for sensitivity to those placebos, and eliminate any subjects who reacted to them. Researchers could be fairly certain that those who did not react to their reactive placebos would not react to monosodium glutamate test material.
  10. Advertised for, and presumably used, “well subjects” – people who had never experienced any of the symptoms with which reactions to monosodium glutamate are associated. (If 50 per cent of the population were sensitive to monosodium glutamate, but research design precluded inclusion of that 50 per cent who were sensitive, a study claiming to assess the number of people sensitive to monosodium glutamate would be invalid.)
  11. Referred to studies as “randomized double-blind crossover design studies,” which gave the casual reader the impression that subjects were drawn randomly from the general population. In fact, subjects were often carefully selected people who would tell researchers that they had never experienced any of the adverse reactions associated with monosodium glutamate, and, under those conditions, were paid generously to participate in the studies. Other subjects were people, often students, paid for participating in industry-sponsored studies only if they said they were sensitive to monosodium glutamate. In either case, the only thing in those studies that was “random” was whether subjects get their monosodium glutamate test trial first and their placebo second, or vice versa. Subjects recruited in 1993 for a study begun in 1992 carried out at Harvard Medical School, Northwestern University Medical School, and UCLA Medical School, were paid hundreds of dollars each–only if the applying subjects (many of them students) claimed that they were sensitive to monosodium glutamate.
  12. Used placebos that were virtually guaranteed to produce as many reactions as might be produced following ingestion of the monosodium glutamate test material. Using toxic material in both test material and placebo, researchers argued that the reactions to monosodium glutamate-containing test material were not reactions to monosodium glutamate because subjects also reacted to placebos, which were assumed to be inert. Actually, the use of toxic material in placebos, particularly when it is identical or similar to the monosodium glutamate in the test material, makes it virtually inevitable that there will be approximately as many reactions to placebos as there are reactions to monosodium glutamate test material.

Sometimes glutamate-industry researchers use processed free glutamic acid in placebos, but use sources of processed free glutamic acid different than the ingredient called monosodium glutamate. Gelatin, which always contains free glutamic acid, has been a favorite.

Beginning in 1978, before aspartame was approved by the FDA for use in food, glutamate-industry researchers used aspartame in placebos. 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. Aspartame contains phenylalanine (which adversely affects one in 15,000 Americans); aspartic acid (an excitatory amino acid); and a methyl esther. Aspartic acid and glutamic acid load on the same receptors in the brain, cause the same brain damage and neuroendocrine disorders in experimental animals, and, with the exception of blindness related to aspartame ingestion, cause virtually the same adverse reactions in humans.

There are over 7,000 unsolicited reports of adverse reactions to aspartame filed with the FDA. It should surprise no one, therefore, that glutamate industry researchers found as many reactions following ingestion of an aspartame-containing placebo as they found following ingestion of monosodium glutamate test material.

Placebo reactions have also been noted in industry-sponsored animal studies. In 1981, it was noted by Nemeroff that Abraham, Doughtery, Goldberg, and Coulston and Abraham, Swart, Goldberg, and Coulston found in both control and glutamic acid treated monkeys a “very small proportion of necrotic or damaged neuronal cells and oligodendrocytes… in the arcuate nuclear region of the hypothalamus.” This might happen if the placebo, as well as the test material, contained small amounts of an excitotoxin identical or similar to glutamic acid.

The bottom line

About taste…
In the first half of the 20th century, food encyclopedias (with articles often written by Ajinomoto, Co., Inc., which may very well be the world’s largest producer of monosodium glutamate) characterized monosodium glutamate as a “white, almost odorless, crystalline powder with a slightly sweet or salty taste. Each gram contains 5.5 meg of sodium. [Monosodium glutamate] is used as a flavor enhancer, imparting a meaty flavor, commonly in oriental foods.” Smolinske SC. Handbook of food, drug, and cosmetic excipients. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 1992

By the end of the 20th century, the mode of manufacturing monosodium glutamate had changed (a fact that has been only grudgingly publicly acknowledged by Ajinomoto), and Ajinomoto was laying the groundwork for proclaiming monosodium glutamate a fifth taste to stand side by side with sweet, salty, bitter, and sour.

It’s called Umami. It’s a fiction paid for by Ajinomoto to legitimize the use of monosodium glutamate in food. It’s the fifth taste that MSG-sensitive people can’t taste.

About the product…
Monosodium glutamate is a product that contains glutamic acid that has been freed from protein by a manufacturing process and/or through fermentation. In addition to glutamic acid, monosodium glutamate contains sodium. If follows, therefore, that monosodium glutamate is not found in protein. Protein is made up of an array of amino acids. There is no sodium in protein.

The glutamic acid portion of monosodium glutamate is made up of L-glutamic acid and D-glutamic acid. There is no D-glutamic acid in unadulterated protein.

Monosodium glutamate is a product, and, without exception, when monosodium glutamate is produced, unwanted by-products of manufacture accompany the manufacture. The subject was elaborated in a Bulletin of the Japanese Central Customs Laboratory in 1977 (PDF file).

The exact nature of by-products (impurities) will vary according to the source material used to produce the monosodium glutamate and the method used to produce it. There are no impurities associated with unprocessed, unadulterated, unfermented protein found in the human body or elsewhere.

By definition, L-glutamic acid from any source will be identical to L-glutamic acid from any other source. But monosodium glutamate contains impurities as well as L-glutamic acid. Truly natural, unprocessed, unadulterated, unfermented protein does not contain impurities.

There have been numerous patents awarded to those who would produce monosodium glutamate. Allowing patents to be awarded for processing monosodium glutamate testifies to the fact that the monosodium glutamate produced will not be truly natural, i.e., will not be an unmodified part of nature.

The rest of the story…

The rest of the story is told by the people who profit from sale of monosodium glutamate and the other ingredients that contain MfG. You will find their propaganda on the Internet (accessed 7/26/2016 and again on 1/12/2019):

The Glutamate Association

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – Questions and Answers on MSG”

International Food Information Council (IFIC)

“The Fifth Taste: Discovering Umami”

“Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): From A to Umami”

“Glutamate and Monosodium Glutamate: Examining the Myths”

Umami Information Center (UIC)

International Glutamate Information Service (IGIS)

MSGDish Blog — a broad array of misinformation about umami, glutamate, and MSG

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 and follow us on Twitter @truthlabeling.

Umami: the con of the decade?

It has always been my opinion that the concept of umami was developed to promote the sale of monosodium glutamate, with a very large enterprise developed to promote the fiction.

When I was first introduced to “umami” I had a creeping suspicion that the concept of umami had been promoted in an effort to legitimize the use of monosodium glutamate in food, drawing attention away from the fact that monosodium glutamate is a neurotoxic amino acid which kills brain cells, is an endocrine disruptor (causing obesity and reproductive disorders), and is the trigger for reactions such as asthma, migraine headache, seizures, depression, irritable bowel, hives, and heart irregularities.

It’s common knowledge that there are glutamate receptors in the mouth and on the tongue. Could researchers be hired to produce studies demonstrating that glutamate containing food can stimulate those glutamate receptors, and then declare to the world that a fifth taste has been discovered — calling it umami? I wondered.

Never mind that for years monosodium glutamate was described as a tasteless white crystalline powder. Never mind that Julia Child, who in her later years was recruited to praise the use of monosodium glutamate, never once mentioned the additive in her cookbooks. Never mind that if there was taste associated with monosodium glutamate, people who are sensitive to MSG would be highly motivated to identify that taste and thereby avoid ingesting MSG – which they claim they cannot do.

It certainly would be wonderful, I thought, if the glutamic acid in processed free glutamic acid (MSG) had a delicious, robust, easily identifiable taste of its own. Even if the taste was unpleasant instead of delicious, it would still be wonderful — at least the adults who are sensitive to MSG could identify the additive in their food and avoid eating it. MSG-induced migraine headaches, tachycardia, skin rash, irritable bowels, seizures, depression, and all of the other MSG-induced maladies, could become nothing more than bad memories.

Sometime after Olney and others demonstrated that monosodium glutamate was an excitotoxin — killing brain cells and disrupting the endocrine system — Ajinomoto, Co., Inc. began to claim that their researchers had identified/isolated a “fifth taste.” The “fifth taste,” they said, was the taste of processed free glutamic acid. This alleged fifth taste was branded “umami.”

The word “umami” has been in the Japanese vocabulary for over a century, being in use during the Edo period of Japanese history which ended in 1868. In the 1990s, it was written that “umami” can denote a really good taste of something – a taste or flavor that exemplifies the flavor of that something. It was said that the taste of monosodium glutamate by itself does not in any sense represent deliciousness. Instead, it is often described as unpleasant, and as bitter, salty, or soapy. However, when monosodium glutamate is added in low concentrations to appropriate foods, the flavor, the pleasantness, and the acceptability of the food increases.

For years, certainly up to the turn of this century, monosodium glutamate had been thought of as a flavor enhancer – like salt. Something that enhances the taste of the food to which it is added. Early encyclopedia definitions of monosodium glutamate stated that monosodium glutamate was an essentially tasteless substance. The idea (advanced by Ajinomoto) that monosodium glutamate has a taste of its own, as opposed to being a flavor enhancer, is relatively recent. Not just a taste of its own, mind you, but something newsworthy that could attract national or international attention. A fifth classification of taste added to the recognized tastes of sweet, salty, bitter, and sour.

The idea that monosodium glutamate has a unique taste can be tracked in the scientific literature if you read vigilantly. I don’t know whose brainchild it was, but it certainly was a brilliant move on the road to marketing monosodium glutamate – a move precipitated by a growing public recognition that monosodium glutamate causes serious adverse reactions. And even one step farther up the brilliance chart, this monosodium-glutamate-taste-of-its-own was given a name. Naming things makes them easy to talk about and gives them respectability. The monosodium-glutamate-taste-of-its-own was named “umami.”

We started writing about umami years ago. We were already familiar with the research that the glutamate industry used to claim that umami was a fifth taste, and we knew that, with possible rare exception, all of that research had been funded by Ajinomoto and/or their friends and agents. We also sensed that researchers outside of the direct employ, or outside of the indirect largess of the glutamate industry, found the idea of a fifth taste to be without merit.

We thought that we should begin by making the case that what was called the “taste” produced by monosodium glutamate is not a taste, per se, but is little or nothing more than the vague sensation that nerves are firing. We would start by reminding our readers that what industry calls the “taste” of monosodium glutamate is its manufactured free glutamic acid; that glutamic acid is a neurotransmitter; and that as a neurotransmitter, glutamic acid would carry nerve impulses to nerve cells called glutamate receptors, and trigger responses/reactions. Then we would explain that there are glutamate receptor cells in the mouth and on the tongue, and that monosodium glutamate could trigger reactions in those glutamate receptors — leaving the person who was ingesting the monosodium glutamate with the perception that food being ingested with it had a bigger, longer lasting taste than it would have had if there was no monosodium glutamate present.

Ask Ajinomoto, and they will tell you that there are studies that prove that umami is a fifth taste. Review of those studies has proved to be extremely interesting, but when read carefully, offers no proof that monosodium glutamate does anything more than stimulate receptors in the mouth and on the tongue and promote the perception of more taste than the ingested food would otherwise provide.

I actually spoke with one of the umami researchers on the phone, a Dr. Michael O’Mahoney, Professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology, UC Davis. He was doing research for the glutamate industry and, therefore, could certainly provide information.

Dr. O’Mahoney was warm and friendly, but said that because he had a contract with Ajinomoto to study the taste of monosodium glutamate he was not able to share information with me. An academician who refused to share information was an animal I had not met before.

Based on personal observations and conversations with MSG-sensitive friends, I have become increasingly certain that monosodium glutamate has no taste; that in stimulating the glutamate receptors in the mouth and on the tongue, glutamate causes the person ingesting monosodium glutamate to perceive more taste in food than the food would otherwise have; that umami is a clever contrivance/device/public relations effort to draw attention away from the fact that processed free glutamic acid and the monosodium glutamate that contains it are toxic.

And taste? A savory taste? Given what I know about Ajinomoto’s rigging studies of the safety of monosodium glutamate, I couldn’t help but wonder if they might have done something unsavory to support their claim that monosodium glutamate has a savory taste.

  • They certainly have studies allegedly demonstrating that monosodium glutamate has a savory taste. Were those studies rigged?
  • Did Ajinomoto feed something to the genetically modified bacteria that excrete their glutamic acid that would cause the glutamic acid to have a taste? A savory taste?
  • When the L-glutamic acid used in monosodium glutamate is produced, there are unavoidable by-products of production. Does one of those by-products contribute a savory taste?
  • Is some savory flavoring added to the monosodium glutamate product before it leaves the Eddyville plant?
  • Is “savory taste” a fiction invented by Ajinomoto and reinforced through repetition of the concept?

When it comes down to what really matters, whether there are four or five tastes is irrelevant.

When it comes down to what really matters, whether monosodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer or a flavor itself is inconsequential.

What really matters is that chemical poisons are being poured into infant formula, enteral (invalid) care products, dietary supplements, pharmaceuticals and processed foods — and one of those chemical poisons is manufactured free glutamic acid, found in monosodium glutamate and four dozen or so other ingredients with names that give no clue to its presence. That’s my opinion.

Adrienne Samuels, Ph.D.
Director, The Truth in Labeling Campaign

Ingredient Names Used to Hide Manufactured free Glutamate (MfG)

MSG has been used as an acronym for “monosodium glutamate” for years, with people who reacted to it referring to their “MSG reactions.” So, it isn’t surprising that over time, consumers started using the acronym “MSG” to stand for the ingredients that trigger what they identified as “MSG reactions.” Largely because those in the glutamate industry have built on the confusion caused by using “MSG” incorrectly, we thought it time that there be a proper acronym for consumers to use when talking about what’s contained in monosodium glutamate that causes their pain and suffering – distinguishing between the product called “monosodium glutamate” and the toxic ingredient contained in it.

We propose to use MSG just as the Glutes do, to stand for the flavor enhancer, “monosodium glutamate,” but will now refer to the amino acid in monosodium glutamate that causes brain damage, endocrine disorders and adverse reactions, by its more factual name – Manufactured free Glutamate or MfG.

Names of ingredients that contain Manufactured free Glutamate (MfG) *1

Everyone knows that some people react to the food ingredient monosodium glutamate (MSG). What many don’t know, is that more than 40 different ingredients contain the chemical in monosodium glutamate — Manufactured free Glutamate (MfG) — that causes these reactions. The following list has been compiled over the last 20 years from consumer reports and information provided by manufacturers and food technologists.

Names of ingredients that always contain MfG:

  • Glutamic acid (E 620) *2
  • Glutamate (E 620)
  • Monosodium glutamate (E 621)
  • Monopotassium glutamate (E 622)
  • Calcium glutamate (E 623)
  • Monoammonium glutamate (E 624)
  • Magnesium glutamate (E 625)
  • Natrium glutamate
  • Anything “hydrolyzed”
  • Any “hydrolyzed protein”
  • Calcium caseinate, Sodium caseinate
  • Yeast extract, Torula yeast
  • Yeast food, Yeast nutrient
  • Autolyzed yeast
  • Gelatin
  • Textured protein
  • Whey protein
  • Whey protein concentrate
  • Whey protein isolate
  • Soy protein
  • Soy protein concentrate
  • Soy protein isolate
  • Anything “protein”
  • Anything “protein fortified”
  • Soy sauce
  • Soy sauce extract
  • Protease
  • Anything “enzyme modified”
  • Anything containing “enzymes”
  • Anything “fermented”
  • Vetsin
  • Ajinomoto
  • Umami
  • Zinc proteninate

Names of ingredients that often contain or produce MfG during processing:

  • Carrageenan (E 407)
  • Bouillon and broth
  • Stock
  • Any “flavors” or “flavoring”
  • Natural flavor
  • Maltodextrin
  • Oligodextrin
  • Citric acid, Citrate (E 330)
  • Anything “ultra-pasteurized”
  • Barley malt
  • Malted barley
  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Pectin (E 440)
  • Malt extract
  • Seasonings

The following are ingredients suspected of containing or creating sufficient processed free glutamic acid to serve as MfG-reaction triggers in HIGHLY SENSITIVE people:

  • Corn starch
  • Corn syrup
  • Modified food starch
  • Lipolyzed butter fat
  • Dextrose
  • Rice syrup
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Milk powder
  • Reduced fat milk (skim; 1%; 2%)
  • most things “low fat” or “no fat”
  • anything “enriched”
  • anything “vitamin enriched”
  • anything “pasteurized”
  • Annatto
  • Vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • certain amino acid chelates (Citrate, aspartate, and glutamate are used as chelating agents with mineral supplements.)
*1 Glutamic acid found in unadulterated protein does not cause adverse reactions. To cause adverse reactions, the glutamic acid must have been processed /manufactured or come from protein that has been fermented.
*2 E numbers are use in Europe in place of food additive names.

The following work synergistically with the ingredient monosodium glutamate (MSG) to enhance flavor. If they are present for flavoring, so is MSG:

Disodium 5’-guanylate (E 627) / Disodium 5’-inosinate (E-631) / Disodium 5′-ribonucleotides (E 635)


Low fat and no fat milk products often contain milk solids that contain MfG and many dairy products contain carrageenan, guar gum, and/or locust bean gum. Low fat and no fat ice cream and cheese may not be as obvious as yogurt, milk, cream, cream cheese, cottage cheese, etc., but they are not exceptions.

Protein powders contain glutamic acid, which, invariably, will be Manufactured free Glutamate (MfG). Individual amino acids are not always listed on labels of protein powders. If you see the word “protein” in an ingredient label, the product contains MfG.

At present there may be an FDA requirement to include the protein source when listing hydrolyzed protein products on labels of processed foods. Examples are hydrolyzed soy protein, hydrolyzed wheat protein, hydrolyzed pea protein, hydrolyzed whey protein, hydrolyzed, corn protein. If a tomato, for example, were whole, it would be identified as a tomato. Calling an ingredient tomato protein indicates that the tomato has been hydrolyzed, at least in part, and that Manufactured free Glutamate (MfG) is present.

Disodium guanylate and disodium inosinate are relatively expensive food additives that work synergistically with inexpensive MSG. Their use suggests that the product has MSG in it. They would probably not be used as food additives if there were no MSG present.

Reactions have been reported from soaps, shampoos, hair conditioners, and cosmetics, where MfG is hidden in ingredients with names that include the words “hydrolyzed,” “amino acids,” and/or “protein.” Most sun block creams and insect repellents also contain MfG.

Drinks, candy, and chewing gum are potential sources of hidden MfG and/or aspartame, neotame. and AminoSweet (a relatively new name for aspartame). Aspartic acid, found in neotame, aspartame (NutraSweet), and AminoSweet, ordinarily causes reactions in MfG sensitive people. (It would appear that calling aspartame “AminoSweet” is industry’s method of choice for hiding aspartame.) We have not seen Neotame used widely in the United States.

Aspartame will be found in some medications, including children’s medications. For questions about the ingredients in pharmaceuticals, check with your pharmacist and/or read the product inserts for the names of “other” or “inert” ingredients.

Binders and fillers for medications, nutrients, and supplements, both prescription and non-prescription, enteral feeding materials, and some fluids administered intravenously in hospitals, may contain MfG.

According to the manufacturer, Varivax–Merck chicken pox vaccine (Varicella Virus Live), contains (or contained) L-monosodium glutamate and hydrolyzed gelatin, both of which contain Manufactured free Glutamate (MfG) which causes brain lesions in young laboratory animals, and causes endocrine disturbances like OBESITY and REPRODUCTIVE disorders later in life. It would appear that most, if not all, live virus vaccines contain some ingredient(s) that contains MfG.

According to the CDC, as listed in its Vaccine Excipient & Media Summary (Appendix B of the “Pink Book”), there are 37 vaccines presently in use that obviously contain ingredients that contain MfG. Reactions to MfG are dose related, i.e., some people react to even very small amounts. MfG-induced reactions may occur immediately after ingestion or after as much as 48 hours. The time lapse between ingestion and reaction is typically the same each time for a particular individual who ingests an amount of MfG that exceeds his or her individual tolerance level.

Remember: By food industry definition, all MfG is “naturally occurring.” “Natural” doesn’t mean “safe.” “Natural” only means that the ingredient started out in nature like arsenic and hydrochloric acid.