Monosodium glutamate (MSG): The basics

1) It’s manufactured using genetically engineered bacteria.
The most “naturally occurring” thing about monosodium glutamate is the genetically modified bacteria that excrete monosodium glutamate’s potentially excitotoxic glutamic acid through their cell walls.

2) It contains:

  • L-glutamic acid (which stimulates taste buds to give the perception of a more exciting or robust taste experience);
  • unavoidable, undesirable, by-products of L-glutamic acid manufacture which include D-glutamic acid, pyroglutamic acid, and additional impurities depending on the material fed to the bacteria and the exact nature of the bacterial fermentation involved –– by-products of manufacture that are not found in unadulterated meat, fish, poultry or in the human body;
  • sodium, and,
  • moisture.

3) When present in excess, it turns excitotoxic.
When present in excess (amounts greater than needed for normal body function), the glutamic acid in monosodium glutamate becomes excitotoxic, causing neurotransmitters to fire repeatedly until the cells associated with targeted glutamate receptors die — causing brain damage and endocrine disorders as well as reactions such as a-fib, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome and seizures.

4) There is more than enough free glutamic acid in processed food to enable humans to accrue the excesses needed to cause brain damage and consequent abnormalities.

5) To learn more:

To learn more about monosodium glutamate see: What is monosodium glutamate?

To review the names of ingredients that contain manufactured free glutamic acid see: Ingredient Names Used to Hide MfG.

To understand the difference between manufactured free glutamic acid and the glutamic acid found in unadulterated protein and in the human body see: Manufactured vs Natural glutamic acid.

To read about industry’s denial of the toxicity of MSG see:
Basic Facts (things the “glutes” don’t want you to know)
This is How the “MSG is Safe” Game is Played
Meet the “Glutes”
Here’s How They Hide MSG
The Architect of it All
Industry’s FDA
Six Big Fat Lies
Propaganda
Umami

Giving credit where credit is due: Writers engaged in spreading the Glutes’ propaganda and the outlets that enable them

The fiction that monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a harmless food additive has several key components:

  • Rigged studies and bold-faced lies.
  • A vigorous PR effort (currently being conducted by Daniel J. Edelman Public Relations).
  • Paid media, in the form of “sponsored” content (that you may not realize is bought and paid for).
  • “Earned” media – meaning legitimate journalists with access to top-tier outlets (think Wall Street Journal) who have been enlisted to write up articles that look and sound like real news, but are simply industry’s messaging done in the “voice” of the publication. This method also works with celebrities (especially chefs), bloggers and anyone else who has a big social media following.

And if you think that the flood of glutamate-industry propaganda has been torrential lately, you’re absolutely right. Ajinomoto, the world’s largest manufacturer of monosodium glutamate, is in the middle of a 10-million-dollar PR blitz (according to Ajinomoto), to “persuade Americans that MSG is safe—and maybe even good for you…”

We can’t always say for sure who is responsible for spreading the Glutes’ words so far and wide, but it seems only appropriate to share the names of some of the authors and outlets that enable them. For more about glutamate-industry propaganda, look here and here.

Rachael Ray Every Day, May, 2019
“Surprise: MSG Has Been Completely Safe to Eat All This Time”
Author: Hillary Maglin
https://www.rachaelraymag.com/whats-new/why-msg-is-safe-to-eat

BBC future, May, 2019
“The man who discovered umami”
Author: Veronique Greenwood
http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20190503-the-mystery-taste-that-always-eluded-us

BBC Future, November, 2015
Is MSG as bad as it’s made out to be?
Author: Bianca Nogrady
www.bbc.com/future/story/20151106-is-msg-as-bad-as-its-made-out-to-be\

The Wall Street Journal, April, 2019
“The FDA Says It’s Safe, So Feel Free to Say ‘Yes’ to MSG”
Author: River Davis
https://www.wsj.com/articles/rescuing-msgs-unsavory-reputation-11556337610

WebMD, February, 2019
“Is MSG really so bad?”
Author: Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD
https://blogs.webmd.com/food-fitness/20190219/is-msg-really-so-bad

Lifehacker Skillet, January, 2019
“Put MSG in everything, you cowards”
Author: Claire Lower
https://skillet.lifehacker.com/put-msg-in-everything-you-cowards-1831721707

Men’s Health, January, 2019
“Is MSG Bad for You? No – and Here’s Why”
Author: Chris Mohr, Ph.D, RD
https://www.menshealth.com/nutrition/a26006305/msg-not-bad-for-you/

fivethirtyeight, January, 2016
How MSG Got A Bad Rap: Flawed Science And Xenophobia
Author: Anna Maria Barry-Jester
https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-msg-got-a-bad-rap-flawed-science-and-xenophobia/

Decoding Delicious, March, 2013
What is MSG, and is it safe to eat? –
Author: Amanda Green
www.decodingdelicious.com/what-is-msg/

Lifehacker, December, 2018
“Stop being afraid of MSG”
Author: Beth Skwarecki
https://vitals.lifehacker.com/stop-being-afraid-of-msg-1831011967

Esquire, October, 2018
“It’s time for America to fall back in love with MSG”
Author: Joanna Rothkopf
https://www.esquire.com/food-drink/food/a23566452/its-time-for-america-to-fall-back-in-love-with-msg/

The Seattle Times, October, 2018
“Avoiding MSG? Look beyond the myths”
Author: Carrie Dennett
https://www.seattletimes.com/life/wellness/avoiding-msg-look-beyond-the-myths/

Berkeley Wellness, October, 2018
“Is MSG Safe?”
Author: Keng Lam MD
https://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/food-safety/article/msg-safe

US News & World Report, October, 2018
“Scientists Have Known MSG is Safe for Decades. Why Don’t Most Americans?”
Author: Toby Amidor
https://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/articles/2018-10-10/scientists-have-known-msg-is-safe-for-decades-why-dont-most-americans

Business Insider, August, 2014
Is MSG Sodium In Chinese Food Safe To Eat?
Author: Kevin Loria
https://www.businessinsider.com/is-msg-sodium-in-chinese-food-safe-to-eat-2014-8

Business Insider, February, 2017
Everyone should cook with MSG, says food scientist
Author: Gus Lubin
https://www.businessinsider.com/cooking-with-msg-supersalt-2017-2

BuzzFeed, August, 2013
The Notorious MSG’s Unlikely Formula For Success
Author: John Mahoney
https://www.buzzfeed.com/johnmahoney/the-notorious-msgs-unlikely-formula-for-success

Slate, May, 2006
Could MSG make a comeback?
Author: Sarah Dickerman
https://slate.com/human-interest/2006/05/could-msg-make-a-comeback.html

Reader’s Digest, August, 2018
“What is MSG – and how bad is it, really?
Author: Denise Mann, MS
https://www.rd.com/health/wellness/what-is-msg-and-how-bad-is-it-really/

Blog: MyFitnessPal, September, 2016
Is MSG Safe?
Author: Monica Reinagel
https://blog.myfitnesspal.com/is-msg-safe/

Skeptical Raptor, July, 2018
“MSG myth – debunked with real science”
https://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php/msg-myth-versus-science/

Self, June, 2018
“We all really need to stop freaking out about MSG”
Author: Yvette d’Entremont
https://www.self.com/story/we-all-really-need-to-stop-freaking-out-about-msg

The Guardian, May, 2018
“Chinese restaurant syndrome: has MSG been unfairly demonized?”
Author: Joanna Blythman
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/may/21/chinese-restaurant-syndrome-has-msg-been-unfairly-demonised

The Guardian, July 2005
If MSG is so bad for you, why doesn’t everyone in Asia have a headache?
Author: Alex Renton
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2005/jul/10/foodanddrink.features3

Financial Times, May, 2015
OMG I love MSG
Author: Tim Hayward
Not available online

Smithsonian.com, November, 2013
It’s the Umami, Stupid. Why the Truth About MSG is So Easy to Swallow
Author: Natasha Geiling
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/its-the-umami-stupid-why-the-truth-about-msg-is-so-easy-to-swallow-180947626/

We’ve merely skimmed the surface of what’s out there. If other articles catch your eye, please send their links to us at questionsaboutmsg@gmail.com, or post them on our Facebook page. We like to give credit where credit is due.

The contrived controversy over MSG-safety

If you Google “monosodium glutamate” and the word “controversy,” you come up with over 800,000 results. Does that mean there are legitimate opposing viewpoints about whether monosodium glutamate is safe or not – a true controversy?

Clearly there are two sides to every story, and we should be told both. But when the side claiming “controversy” offers nothing more than rigged research, name calling, and out and out lies, what they’re delivering is more akin to propaganda than it is to controversy. And in the case of MSG-safety, that’s all there is. There is no honest MSG-is-safe science. There are no scrupulous studies that demonstrate that MSG is a “harmless” food additive.

So if you’re wondering where the “facts” about MSG-safety are coming from, we have listed some of the arguments on which those ”facts” are based:

Purported evidence that MSG is a harmless food additive:

  1. Animal studies that falsely claimed to be replications of studies demonstrating brain damage in laboratory animals.
  2. The argument that animal studies demonstrating MSG-toxicity are invalid, because animals do not represent the human condition.
  3. The lie that humans can’t eat enough manufactured free glutamate (MfG) to cause the brain damage, endocrine disorders, and assorted reactions that laboratory animals experienced in the 1960s and 1970s – a claim that is particularly interesting in light of industry claims one and two above.
  4. Human studies that have nothing to do with MSG safety
  5. Human double-blind studies rigged to concluded that research has failed to demonstrated that monosodium glutamate or MfG had toxic potential. Lacing placebo materials used in those studies with an excitotoxic amino acid that causes the same reactions as caused by MSG (the aspartic acid in aspartame) has been just one of the many devices used to facilitate industry’s claim that “research has failed to demonstrated that L-glutamate has toxic potential.”

Bold-faced lies, including:

6. Glutamate contained in MSG is identical to glutamate in the human body.

7. MSG is very well researched and has been found to be safe.

8. MSG must be safe since the FDA has said so.

9. MSG has been used for over a century without adverse reactions.

10. MSG is naturally made, similar to yogurt, vinegar and wine.

11. Monosodium glutamate occurs naturally in food.

12. Humans can’t eat enough manufactured free glutamic acid (MfG) to cause the brain damage, endocrine disorders, and assorted reactions that the laboratory animals experienced.

And all this is packaged by the largest independently owned PR firm in the world, Daniel J. Edelman Public Relations (now working for Ajinomoto, the largest manufacturer of monosodium glutamate in the world). Edelman is reported to have told employees that “Sometimes, you just have to stand up there and lie. Make the audience or the reporter believe that everything is OK.”

Is “controversial” the right term to describe a situation where one side tells the truth about a subject while the opposing side resorts to rigging research, calling names, and telling lies?

About MSG-toxicity, there really is no controversy.

RESOURCES

Data
https://www.truthinlabeling.org/data.html

Brain lesions, obesity, and other disturbances in mice treated with monosodium glutamate.
Olney JW. Science. 1969 May 9;164(3880):719-21. PMID: 5778021
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/5778021

Excitotoxic food additives–relevance of animal studies to human safety.
Olney JW. Neurobehav Toxicol Teratol. 1984 Nov-Dec;6(6):455-62. Review. PMID: 6152304
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6152304

Brain damage in mice from voluntary ingestion of glutamate and aspartate.
Olney JW, Labruyere J, de Gubareff T. Neurobehav Toxicol. 1980 Summer;2(2):125-9. PMID: 7290308
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7290308

Brain damage and oral intake of certain amino acids.
Olney JW. Adv Exp Med Biol. 1976;69:497-506. No abstract available. PMID: 821314
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/821314

Brain-damaging potential of protein hydrolysates.
Olney JW, Ho OL, Rhee V. N Engl J Med. 1973 Aug 23;289(8):391-5. No abstract available. PMID: 4198222
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4198222

Brain damage in infant mice following oral intake of glutamate, aspartate or cysteine.
Olney JW, Ho OL. Nature. 1970 Aug 8;227(5258):609-11. No abstract available. PMID: 5464249
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/5464249

Neonatal exposure to monosodium glutamate induces morphological alterations in suprachiasmatic nucleus of adult rat.
Rojas-Castañeda JC, Vigueras-Villaseñor RM, Chávez-Saldaña M, Rojas P, Gutiérrez-Pérez O, Rojas C, Arteaga-Silva M. Int J Exp Pathol. 2016 Feb;97(1):18-26. doi: 10.1111/iep.12157. Epub 2016 Jan 21. PMID: 26799547
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26799547

What is monosodium glutamate
https://www.truthinlabeling.org/whatismonosodiumglutamate.html

The Toxicity/Safety of Processed Free Glutamic Acid (MSG): A study in Suppression of Information.
https://www.truthinlabeling.org/assets/manuscript2.pdf

Flawed industry studies
https://www.truthinlabeling.org/flawed.html

Six big fat lies
https://www.truthinlabeling.org/lies.html

Propaganda 101: The 8 ingredients in cutting edge propaganda
https://www.truthinlabeling.org/blog/2019/05/01/propaganda-101-the-8-ingredients-in-cutting-edge-propaganda/

https://www.edelman.com/insights/edelman-ad-age-best-places-work-2019

https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Edelman

https://gawker.com/356220/sometimes-you-just-have-to-stand-up-there-and-lie