The Truth in Labeling Campaign


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Anatomy of a fraud

FDA, the big picture

Anatomy of a fraud

Over the course of the last 50 years, the FDA has summarily dismissed research demonstrating that MSG places humans at risk. They don’t counter it, they simply ignore it. Reports of adverse reactions to MSG collected by its own Adverse Reactions Monitoring System have been written off because "they could have been caused by something else."

The FDA has suppressed results of studies that might even suggest the use of MSG places humans at risk. The FDA suppressed results of its own study that suggested use of free glutamic acid in supplements is unsafe. In a July 1992 report to the FDA, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) had concluded, in part, that: " is prudent to avoid the use of dietary supplements of L-glutamic acid by pregnant women, infants, and children.... women of childbearing age and individuals with affective disorders." (MSG is called L-glutamic acid when used in supplements.) Mention has not been made of those recommendations – not to the medical community or anywhere else.

The FDA also reviewed and approved protocols for double-blind studies of the safety of MSG brought to it by Andrew Ebert, Ph.D., then chairman of the International Glutamate Technical Committee. In all of those studies, the placebos contained aspartic acid (found in aspartame), an excitotoxic amino acid that causes adverse reactions and brain damage identical to that caused by the excitotoxic glutamic acid which is the essential component of MSG.

Persons who have identified themselves as representing The Glutamate Association, an organization created and maintained by Ajinomoto, possibly the world’s leading producer of MSG, declared that both the FDA and regulators around the world have found monosodium glutamate to be safe. However, neither independent scientists nor independent regulators have deemed monosodium glutamate safe. FDA studies, which were actually reviews, have always been staffed by persons with ties to the glutamate industry. And the regulators and/or authoritative bodies referred to here did no research of their own; they were given copies of FDA opinions on MSG safety or were provided review information by Ajinomoto, its not-for-profit corporations, and/or its agents — the International Food Information Council (IFIC) and the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), for example.

Glutamic acid is one of a class of excitotoxic – brain damaging -- amino acids. When consumed in controlled quantities, it is essential to normal body function as neurotransmitters and building blocks of protein. But when consumed in quantities greater than needed for normal body function it becomes excitotoxic, firing repeatedly and killing its targeted glutamate receptors. John Olney coined the term “excitotoxin” in 1969 to describe the actions of glutamic acid and MSG.

At one time it would have been meaningful to note that the amount of excitotoxic material in any particular ingredient would not be sufficient to cause brain damage or adverse reactions.

Prior to 1957, the amount of free glutamate and other excitotoxic additives in the average U.S. diet had been unremarkable, and there had been no reports of MSG-induced brain damage or adverse reactions. During 1957, however, the method of producing the free glutamate that makes up the excitotoxic portion of MSG changed from extraction of glutamate from a protein source, a slow and costly method, to a process of bacterial fermentation. This allowed virtually unlimited production of free glutamate and MSG.

It didn’t take long for industry to add dozens more excitotoxic food additives to the American diet. Following MSG’s surge in production and aggressive advertising, it was realized that profits could be significantly increased if companies produced their own flavor-enhancing additives. Since that time, the market has been flooded with flavor enhancers and protein substitutes that contain manufactured free glutamate (MfG) such as hydrolyzed proteins, yeast extracts, maltodextrin and soy protein isolate, as well as MSG. To that has been added the toxic load contributed by excitotoxic aspartic acid, approved by the FDA for use in aspartame, equal, and related products starting in 1974.

Soon after the 1957 use of genetically modified bacteria in the production of MSG began, availability of MSG and other MfG-containing products increased to the point where there was more than sufficient MfG to become excitotoxic if a number of processed and ultra-processed foods were consumed during the course of a day. The first reports of possible MSG-induced adverse reactions were published in 1968, and the first reports of MSG-induced brain damage were published in 1969.


The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about MSG and manufactured free glutamate