MSG, the secret ingredient that makes a pet food a ‘success’

For most pet owners, the proof of quality, flavorful pet food products is in watching our furry friends enjoy their food. When a new diet is introduced to a pet and it stimulates active consumption, it’s considered palatable, and therefore a success. — Kemin Industries

Your idea of a successful food for your pet is probably one that will nourish your pup or kitty and help them live a long, healthy life. But for pet food companies, success is measured by how quickly a dog or cat eagerly eats up every last bite of the same food every single day.

Palatability is a key phrase in the industry. And to ensure that the food is palatable, or tasty and appetizing to the pet, a “secret” ingredient is added — one called a “palatant.”

Palatants are big business. These additives coerce an animal into consuming what’s placed in front of it (even if it’s an unappetizing-looking bowl of hard, brown pellets) using exactly the same method that makes Cheetos irresistible or gets Doritos to taste like the most delicious thing you’ve ever put in your mouth. You know the secret ingredient as monosodium glutamate (MSG), but it’s really the manufactured free glutamate (MfG) in the MSG that triggers our taste buds and our animals’ taste buds, making them beg for more. MfG can be found in 40+ food ingredients.

Palatants, which are also called “digests,” are primarily made from either hydrolyzed animal or vegetable proteins, which invariably contain MfG. When a protein is hydrolyzed it will always create excitotoxic – brain damaging — amino acids. It doesn’t matter if that hydrolyzed protein is put in dog food or a can of tuna you eat for lunch, it will contain MfG, the brain-damaging ingredient found in MSG.

Now, if you plan is to carefully examine the labels of pet foods for this noxious ingredient, you won’t come away with much information. Palatants can be listed on the label as “natural flavoring,” “digest,” or simply incorporated into some other benign-sounding component of the food – both in bargain brands and pricy boutique ones.

There are, however, some pet foods that will tell you right on the package that they’re using MfG-containing hydrolyzed proteins.

The pea-protein gravy train

Currently, the biggest darling of the food industry is widespread, multi-purpose pea protein. It’s a cheap ingredient used to bump up protein content in scores of bars, drinks, powders for smoothies and fake foods. Read more about it here.

When used in pet food, it’s advertised as an easily digestible source of protein, and is typically found in allergy, grain-free and limited protein diets.

Purina is one of many major pet food manufacturers that uses pea protein in its dog food formulas. While consumers are starting to realize that pea protein in human foods contains excitotoxic, brain-damaging MfG, it appears that same level of concern doesn’t apply to what we feed our pets. That is, until we learn that something has gone terribly wrong.

The mysterious heart ailment associated with grain-free pet foods

In 2018 the FDA issued an alert about grain-free pet food being implicated in untold numbers of otherwise healthy dogs and cats developing dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle that can come on slowly and ultimately be fatal.

In typical FDA slow-motion style, the agency first received reports of the potential connection back in 2014, yet waited four years to warn pet owners. Now we know that all breeds, ages and sizes of dogs have been involved in the 560 accounts the FDA received (which most certainly are only a fraction of the actual number of cases).

Interestingly, no heavy metal compounds were found in the foods tested, but over 90 percent of the food consisted of grain-free formulas containing pea and/or lentil protein, i.e., MfG.

Could the excitotoxic amino acids in those ingredients have triggered this deadly heart condition? It’s pretty much a given that we will never learn more from the FDA. To even consider these highly processed, toxic vegetable proteins as a potential cause of this tragedy is something that agency will never, ever do.

The U.S. pet food industry is predicted to reach $30 billion in the next two years, with more and more expensive, highly advertised and “gourmet” brands on the market. Despite all the glowing package claims and pictures of fish, meat and poultry, the contents generally consist of low-quality, toxic ingredients.

And sadly, our dogs and cats are becoming overweight, morbidly obese, diabetic and sick at an ever-increasing rate – just as are their human companions.

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.

FDA claim that MSG is GRAS puts it in violation of its own rules

BY FDA REGULATIONS found in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and in the FDA Code of Federal Regulations, the use of a food substance may be GRAS (generally recognized as safe) either through scientific procedures or, for a substance used in food before 1958, through experience based on common use

In short, to be designated FDA GRAS, an ingredient must be:

1) Tested for safety using scientific procedures, or

2) Known to be safe through experience based on common use in food prior to January 1958.

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) does not meet that standard and therefore does not meet the FDA requirements for GRAS status.

The MSG in use today has never been tested for safety. Although the glutamate industry has turned out badly flawed studies on the “safety” of MSG (using toxic material in placebos, for example), no one outside of the glutamate industry would ever claim that any of those studies qualified as “scientific” procedures.

The MSG in use today, made with glutamate created by genetically modified bacteria that excrete glutamate through their cell walls, was only invented in 1957, allowing no time to demonstrate safe use through experience (based on common use in food) prior to 1958. The MSG in use today could not have been grandfathered GRAS in 1958 because it didn’t exist prior to 1957.

In 1969, it was first observed that manufactured free glutamic acid, the essential ingredient in MSG, is an excitotoxic amino acid. When glutamate is ingested in controlled quantities, it is essential to normal function. But when ingested in excess, it causes brain damage, leading to a variety of abnormalities.

Prior to 1957, when glutamate was produced by extracting it from protein, there was not enough manufactured free glutamate added in food to cause glutamate to become excitotoxic. That changed in 1957 after glutamate came to be produced in virtually unlimited quantities.


Sections 201(s) and 409 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act
FDA’s implementing regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations, 21 CFR 170.3, 21 CFR 170.30, and 21 CFR 170.30(b

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.

Are you feeding your infant brain-damaging additives?

In 1969 the moms and dads of America were promised by the top three baby-food manufacturers that monosodium glutamate would be taken out of their products.

Sure, the baby food executives whined and complained and told how the public had been “unnecessarily alarmed and confused,” but they had hit a brick wall. Dr. John Olney, a top researcher at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, had recently published data showing that when newborn mice were exposed to the additive, they suffered extensive brain damage and endocrine disorders, and he coined the term “excitotoxin” to describe monosodium glutamate. As the late Dr. Jean Mayer, a highly respected nutritionist who taught at Harvard for 25 years (and went on to be named president of Tufts University), said at the time: “I would take the damn stuff out of baby food.”

But half a century later, that “damn stuff” is still being fed to babies – only now added to infant formula.

A formula for disaster

Asked to report on the use of toxic manufactured free glutamate (MfG) in infant formula, we were appalled by the many articles available online that talked of the pros and cons of using various brands, but never once mentioned the presence of excitotoxins.

While monosodium glutamate may have been removed from those little jars of baby food, the same excitotoxic glutamic acid found in monosodium glutamate, now in ingredients such as whey protein concentrate and soy protein isolate, began appearing in infant formula. One product made by Enfamil shockingly lists among its ingredients monosodium glutamate, advising caregivers that it can be continued on as a “milk substitute in the diet of children.”

There are a variety of ways MfG harms the body. When Olney testified in 1972 before the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, he was attesting to the brain damage and subsequent endocrine disorders caused by the MfG in monosodium glutamate when fed to the very young.

Now, people realize that monosodium glutamate also causes adverse reactions such as asthma, migraine headache, irritable bowel, skin rash, seizures, and heart irregularities.

But along the way to this enlightenment, the link between MfG and brain damage seems to have been forgotten. Perhaps that’s because you can’t see brain damage with the naked eye. There’s no pain, no upset stomach, no itching or wheezing.

And stealthily, the glutamate industry has invested millions of dollars in propaganda intended to reassure the public that monosodium glutamate is merely a harmless food additive.

It’s not that health authorities don’t seem to care what’s in infant formulas. The public has been alerted to various toxic ingredients that have been found in these products over the years, including melamine (a compound used to make plastics) and perchlorate (a chemical found in rocket fuel). In fact, the plastic additive BPA has been banned from baby bottles.

But there’s no warning about excitotoxins.

That’s why if you’re thinking of using – or currently use — infant formula, it’s essential that you read the ingredients. Think carefully about the chemicals that are commonly used in these products and beware of hidden excitotoxins.

In March, 2019, we found the following 10 brands of infant formula listed at and searched out their ingredients. These included:

  • Enfamil,
  • Similac,
  • Earth’s Best,
  • Kirkland Signature
  • Good Start
  • Happy Baby
  • Good Sense
  • Member’s Mark
  • Plum Organics
  • Parent’s Choice

In the following ingredient lists, excitotoxic ingredients are highlighted. Only ones that make up more than 1 or 2 percent of the product are included.

Note: The excitotoxin content of milk depends on whether or not whole milk is used in the milk product. If whole milk is used, the excitotoxin content of the milk depends on the pasteurization process (higher heat for longer time frees more glutamic acid and aspartic acid from the original milk protein). If low fat or non-fat milks are used, there will be excitotoxin in the low fat and non-fat milk because those milks are made from milk powder which contains free glutamic acid and free aspartic acid as unavoidable consequences of manufacture.

Enfamil PREMIUM Infant Formula, Powder


Similac Advance

Nonfat Milk, Lactose, Whey Protein Concentrate, High Oleic Safflower Oil, Soy Oil, Coconut Oil, Galactooligosaccharides…

Earth’s Best Organic Dairy Infant Formula with Iron

Organic Lactose, Organic Nonfat Milk, Organic Oils (Organic Palm or Palm Olein, Organic Soy, Organic Coconut, Organic High Oleic Safflower or Sunflower Oil), Organic Whey Protein Concentrate

Kirkland Signature Infant Formula

Nonfat milk, lactose, whey protein concentrate, high oleic safflower oil, soy oil, coconut oil, galacto-oligosaccharides…

Gerber Good Start non-GMO powder Infant Formula


Happy Baby Organic Stage 1 Infant Formula Milk Based Powder with Iron

Organic non-fat milk, organic whey protein concentrate

Good Sense

Corn syrup, non-fat milk, whey protein hydrolysate

Member’s Mark


Plum Organics

Organic Nonfat Milk….Organic Whey Protein Concentrate

Parent’s Choice Non-GMO Premium Infant Formula with Iron

Nonfat Milk, Lactose, Vegetable Oils (Palm Olein, Coconut, Soy, High Oleic (Safflower Or Sunflower] Oil), Whey Protein Concentrate, Galactooligosaccharides…

However, infant formula isn’t the only way a baby can be exposed to MfG.

The bizarre connection between Big Food and breast milk

Research done in the 1980s and 1990s confirmed that monosodium glutamate and other ingredients that contain MfG are passed by pregnant women to their fetuses, and by lactating mothers to their newborns. Studies found that MfG can cross the placenta during pregnancy, can cross the blood brain barrier (BBB) in an unregulated manner during development, and can pass through the five circumventricular organs that lie outside the BBB.

In the 1960s and 1970s Olney described the brain damage done by monosodium glutamate, which was found to destroy brain cells when fed in large quantity to animals whose brains were not protected by blood brain barriers. Olney observed that the BBBs of fetuses and newborns seen in the laboratory left certain areas of their developing brains unprotected, and he cautioned that human fetuses and newborns were similarly at risk. The unprotected areas included the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus, the area of the brain that, when undamaged, regulates reproduction and weight (telling us when to stop eating).

Every woman who breast feeds her baby will want to make sure that her diet does not contain excitotoxins – or contains as few as possible. That list includes aspartic acid (found in aspartame, e.g., Nutrasweet, Equal, Amino Sweet, and other aspartame-based sugar substitutes); L-cysteine, found in dough conditioners, and the many ingredients that contain MfG.

Certainly, every parent wants a healthy baby, but there are industry giants out there who only care about their bottom lines. Consumer beware.

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.

This must have slipped by when Google wasn’t looking!

About as rare as finding a flock of flamingos in Central Park is doing a search on Google for monosodium glutamate (a.k.a. MSG) where the top results don’t all sing the praises of MSG.

This article, found fairly high up on a Google search is headlined: “Chinese celebrity chef Ken Hom says ‘MSG is used only by lazy cooks.’

Ordinarily, a Google search for MSG will deliver pages and pages of articles that proclaim the safety and benefits of feasting on foods enhanced with MSG, sometimes authored by celebrity chefs who speak out on the glories of use of MSG. The claim that renown chefs use MSG in their cooking has long been a staple of glutamate-industry marketing. Often involved are well-known restauranteurs or celebrity chefs such as Andrew Zimmern, Grant Achatz, David Chang, Eddie Huang, Heston Blumenthal and Chris Koetke who celebrate the “wonders” of cooking with MSG.

Foodies will recognize the name of the legendary Julia Child, whose cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, is still a best-seller after 60 years. It’s well known that she would never use MSG in a recipe. Yet somehow the glutamate people got to her, and late in life she was heard on radio extolling the virtues of MSG.

More recently, Andrew Zimmern, celebrity chef & TV personality, served as Master of Ceremonies at the World Umami Forum, put on by the U.S. manufacturer of MSG. Zimmern is quoted from time to time talking about the virtues of MSG, but unless he has just started using MSG in new recipes, he doesn’t appear to cook with it.

Part of what sells MSG to consumers is the people making the presentations (a.k.a. sales pitches). The glutamate industry has capitalized on that fact, and certain celebrity chefs have seen value in testifying to the fact that MSG enhances the flavor of food while ignoring the fact MSG produced since 1957 is a toxic food additive.

Or, as chef Hom says, MSG is for “lazy cooks.”

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 about Gelatin

The Truth about Gelatin originally appeared in Earth Clinic a top-rated alternative health website that features in-depth information and videos about holistic treatments (for both people and pets), home remedies and effective health-boosting uses for numerous everyday products ranging from coconut oil to hydrogen peroxide.

You’re likely to run into gelatin in some surprising places. While it’s commonly found in foods such as gelatin desserts (think Jell-O), aspic, marshmallows, gummy candies, vitamins, and other supplements (including pill capsules), it can also turn up used as a binder in yogurt, ice cream, cream cheese and anywhere a food manufacturer wants to create a good “mouthfeel” for their product.

But like sausages, nobody wants to see how gelatin is made.

Most of the gelatin found in food and supplements comes from heat-degraded collagen derived from pigs and cows. It’s an ugly process that completes the cruel loop of factory farming by taking bone, stripped skin, and connective tissue from slaughterhouses and processing them (through acid, heat, and grinding) into an innocuous-looking, tasteless powder.

There’s nothing in that bouncy gelatin dessert or a smiling gummy bear that will give a hint of the cruelty involved in its creation. But ethical concerns aside, there’s much more not to like about gelatin.

The Gelatin – MSG Connection

Although it might seem that a marshmallow Peep has nothing in common with a shaker of the MSG flavor-enhancer Accent, they are actually related as both contain manufactured free glutamate.

Just as drugs have side effects, manufactured free glutamate has side effects such as irritable bowel, headache, heart irregularities, and skin rash. In addition, manufactured free glutamate is an excitotoxin: a neurologically active compound that in high concentrations has detrimental excitatory effects on the central nervous system and may cause injury to nerve cells.

Manufactured free glutamate is created in food ingredients when protein is broken down into its constituent amino acids. One of those amino acids will always be free glutamate. It is also mass-produced using genetically modified bacteria that excrete glutamate through their cell walls.

In the case of gelatin, the Encyclopedia of Food Science and Technology states that glutamic acid (a.k.a. glutamate) which makes up around 10 percent of gelatin, isn’t the only neurotoxic component released during the manufacturing process. Aspartic acid, another brain-damaging amino acid is also present at a level of around 6 percent. Both sources will cause the same adverse reactions in people, and according to experts like Dr. John Olney, both glutamic and aspartic acid will combine to produce a toxic double-whammy.

Might you have a noticeable reaction to a gelatin product? That would depend on your individual sensitivity as well as the amount of manufactured free glutamate you consume in foods along with the gelatin. And your sensitivity is something that can change with age, illness, if you suffer a head injury, or consume a large amount of manufactured free glutamate.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Look at any gelatin-containing product in the store and you won’t see any mention whatsoever of glutamic acid, aspartic acid (or pigskin and tendons being bathed in acid for that matter). But beyond packaging, which fails to disclose important information about the possible toxic effects of gelatin, are the lies circulated by Big Food to convince you to buy their products.

You’ll hear that manufactured free glutamate is “naturally occurring,” has been extensively studied and found to be “safe,” and the biggest whopper of all — that the glutamate in the human body is exactly the same as what you’ll find in foods such as gelatin. The real story is that all manufactured free glutamate contains impurities that are unavoidable by-products of the manufacturing process.

But what about “kosher” or even “vegetarian” gelatin, are those better choices?

A Fishy Proposition

Kosher gelatin can be derived from either fish or cows certified as kosher and killed in a specific manner. Since kosher rules prohibit the combining of meat and dairy, if you notice kosher gelatin in a dairy product, it’s probably fish-derived.

Fish byproducts such as skin, scales and bones contain high amounts of collagen, and the processing will release neurotoxic free glutamate just as with gelatin from cows or pigs. Published research out of Indonesia has found free glutamic acid amounts in fishbone gelatin ranging from a low of over seven percent to a high of over 10 percent, with aspartic acid going from a low of close to five percent to a high of 6.5 percent, depending on the type of fish.

Vegetable Gelatin

As far as veggie gelatin goes, it too has issues.

Produced from processed algae and seaweed (a marine algae), vegetarian gelatins are derived from rich sources of certain amino acids that will also contain significant amounts of free glutamate and aspartic acid after processing.

If gelatin is something you’ve decided to avoid, it pays to read the ingredient labels of all processed foods and supplements thoroughly, as well as pharmaceuticals (including OTC drugs). And while you won’t be able to determine if the gelatin came from pigs, cows, or fish, the name gelatin is required to be listed on the packaging.


The Free Dictionary: (accessed 5/4/21)

Amino acid and proximate composition of fish bone gelatin from different warm-water species: A comparative study. (accessed 5/4/21)

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.

It’s not just MSG that’s toxic — watch out for the free glutamate found in over 40 other ingredients

Hydrolyzed proteins, you’ll find them in processed foods, pet food, “nutrition” shake mixes and even baby food.

But if you had any question about the excitotoxic (brain damaging) glutamate and aspartate content in hydrolyzed proteins, a recent research report Characterization of umami compounds in bone meal hydrolysate should set the record straight.

According to the report, “The free amino acids and peptides in the bone meal hydrolysate were analyzed. The results showed that the glutamic acid and the aspartic acid in the bone meal increased by 13.1 times and 14.2 times, respectively, after the Flavourzyme hydrolysis….The findings of this study demonstrated that the MSG‐like taste of the bone meal hydrolysate should be attributed to the generation of MSG‐like amino acids and peptides from the Flavourzyme hydrolysis.”

(Flavourzyme is a brand name for an enzymatic hydrolysis product that is used for protein extraction. This includes feather protein hydrolysis used for pet food, which the company says will allow processors to “turn feathers into profit.”)

The take-away is that the process of hydrolysis will invariably produce toxic glutamate, be it in bone meal, milk, corn or any other item that contains protein – including feathers.


Names of ingredients that contain Manufactured free Glutamate, updated 5/21:

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.

Just when we thought we knew all the names… here’s an updated list

Just when we thought we knew the names of all the ingredients in which MfG 1 could be hidden, a new collection appeared on the market.

For many years we’ve known that flavor enhancers contain the free glutamate in hydrolysates, autolysates, yeast extracts and enzyme modified ingredients that enhanced taste by triggering glutamate receptors in the mouth and on the tongue. These are ingredients such as soy protein isolate, hydrolyzed pea protein and autolyzed yeast extract.

The so-called “plant based,” protein substitutes like “Just Egg,” “Impossible Meats,” “Beyond Beef” and “Lightlife plant-based burgers” contain glutamic acid and aspartic acid (both excitotoxic 2 – brain damaging — ingredients) which are part of the amino acid stews used for claiming that the products contain protein.

Now, with a rush for “clean labels,” 3 creative new names are being assigned to old ingredients.

Names of ingredients that always contain MfG

Note: Glutamic acid found in unadulterated protein does not cause adverse reactions. To cause adverse reactions, the glutamic acid must have been processed/manufactured, released from protein during processing, or come from protein that has been fermented.

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 of ingredients that always contain MfG was compiled over the last 30 years from consumer reports and information provided by manufacturers and food technologists.

Glutamic acid (E 620) 4
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, Nutritional yeast
Autolyzed yeast, Brewer’s yeast
Textured protein
Whey protein
Whey protein concentrate
Whey protein isolate
Soy protein
Soy protein concentrate
Soy protein isolate
anything “Protein”
anything “Protein fortified”
anything “Protein concentrate”
anything “Protein isolate”
Zinc proteninate
anything “Proteninate”
Soy sauce
Soy sauce extract
anything “Enzyme modified”
anything containing “Enzymes”
anything “Fermented”

A list of the additional ingredients that contain lesser amounts of MfG will be found at:


  1. Manufactured free Glutamate
  2. Brain damaging.
  3. Labels of foods that contain undesirable components but give no clue to their presence.
  4. Numbers used in Europe in place of food additive names.

    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.

Has anyone had this experience with anxiety?

“Hangxiety,” (anxiety with a hangover) is a “real condition” according to Australian doc Zac Turner.

Turner says that it’s a sign your body is attempting to “rebalance your brain’s chemicals post drinking.” That feeling of being drunk comes when our brain “begins to shake up its own cocktail of chemicals.”

“Alcohol opens the floodgates of your brain’s neurotransmitters,” says Turner, “such as dopamine and serotonin, which is why you initially feel a rush of euphoria.”

According to Turner, glutamate is another neurotransmitter that causes anxiety. Have you ever noticed a feeling of anxiety after eating processed foods that contain MSG, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed proteins, natural flavoring or any of the other ingredients that contain Manufactured Free Glutamate (MfG)?

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.

Eating MSG isn’t the only way for its toxic ingredient to enter your body

It’s common knowledge that many things can be absorbed through the skin. Transdermal delivery of drugs is routine, even in over-the-counter products (think nicotine stop-smoking patches).

But what you may find surprising is the sheer number of goods, from medical supplies and devices to lotions and shampoos, that contain the toxic ingredient in MSG (the manufactured free glutamic acid we refer to as MfG) — which also can be readily absorbed through your skin. *

If you are savvy and go out of your way to avoid MSG and MfG in food, it makes perfect sense to also avoid using these products on your skin. And just like reactions to MfG taken in food are dose-related, for those who have extreme sensitivities to MfG, it appears that even incredibly small amounts applied topically can cause reactions.

For Truth in Labeling Campaign co-founder Jack Samuels, that was the case. Even a small amount of MfG-containing guar gum used in heart-monitor contacts brought on atrial fibrillation that would last for 3-4 days after the contacts were removed.

This is how Jack described it: “When I left the hospital, I convinced the nurse to give me a sample of the heart monitor contacts that had been glued to my chest. They were Red Dot contacts produced by 3M. I’d asked for the sample because as they removed the contacts from my chest, I observed that the center of each contact that had touched my skin had a small bulb of gelatinous material. I knew that the glue on the contact likely contained some starch, an ingredient that would have small amounts of MSG, but I didn’t think such a small amount would cause such an immediate reaction. After the contacts were removed, I realized there would also have been MSG in the gelatin that had made contact with my skin.

“Back home, I contacted 3M, told them of my situation, and asked for a list of the ingredients used in the Red Dot product. They refused, stating the information was proprietary. I then called a friend who was a major 3M customer, and asked for his help in getting the ingredient list.

It turned out that it was the guar gum in the gelatinous material that was the offending ingredient. The 3M laboratory had found a small amount of free glutamic acid in the guar gum, which, they claimed in a carefully worded e-mail, was so very small that it wouldn’t have caused my reaction. I wish I had $10 for each time I’ve heard someone say that the amount of MSG was so small I couldn’t have reacted to it.” (From “It Wasn’t Alzheimer’s, it Was MSG,” a free download of which is available here.)

While the 3M products that Jack encountered were considered medical devices, the MfG that your skin is more likely to come into contact with will be natural-sounding skin and hair products sold just about everywhere. Many will have glutamate, glutamic acid, or amino acids in the ingredient listings, or ingredients that are hydrolyzed. (Any hydrolyzed ingredient will always contain MfG.)

Disodium cocoyl glutamate is a cleansing agent and surfactant derived from glutamic acid. We found it in Burt’s Bees, Alba Botanical and Weleda products.

One company named Fenchem launched a line of amino-acid-based surfactants a few years back with ingredients derived from L-glutamic acid given names such as SLG-95 (sodium lauroyl glutamate) and LGA-95 (lauroyl glutamic acid). Selling directly to cosmetic manufacturers, the company claimed its products would “overcome” the “fears” many consumers have over “personal health” and help to replace petrochemical-based ingredients.

And if you think some regulatory agency is watching over what we shower with, shave with and put on our heads, think again. The law does not require cosmetic products and ingredients other than color additives to have FDA approval before they go on the market.

Interestingly, while no FDA approval is required to sell personal care products, 11 ingredients have been banned (or in some cases, restricted) by the FDA. Mercury compounds are one. While that may sound as if the FDA is paying attention, compare that to the EU, which has banned 1,328 chemicals from being used in cosmetics, requires pre-market safety evaluations and mandatory registration.

And when the FDA talks about “safety data” on cosmetic ingredients, you will always find mention of Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), an industry-funded panel of experts who “review the safety of cosmetic ingredients.”

The CIR 2013 “Safety Assessment of alpha-amino acids as used in cosmetics” concluded that “glutamic acid is safe in the present practices of use and concentration in cosmetics.” That determination was based, in part, on the fact that the amino acids reviewed by the CIR are “found in foods, and the daily exposure from food use would result in a much larger systemic dose than that resulting from use in cosmetic products….Consequently, the systemic toxicity potential is not addressed (emphasis added) further in this report. The safety focus of use of these amino acids as cosmetic ingredients is on the potential for irritation and sensitization.”

The bottom line is that shopping for soaps, lotions and shampoo can be just as tricky as food shopping, especially when it comes to avoiding MfG. Fortunately, there still are plenty of truly natural products to choose from, along with real food and herbal ingredients that will allow you to bypass these chemical concoctions altogether.

*Food ingredients that contain manufactured free glutamate (MfG)

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.