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ACCORDING TO INDUSTRY…
According to glutamate industry propaganda, monosodium glutamate is a naturally occurring amino acid, blessed with all of the attributes of the glutamic acid found in unadulterated, unprocessed, unfermented food.
In a typical industry double-speak article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monosodium_glutamate Accessed 12/25/2010) the reader first reads that monosodium glutamate is a naturally occurring amino acid:
Next the reader is told how this “naturally occurring amino acid” is manufactured:
“It is used as a food additive and is commonly marketed as a flavour enhancer. It has the HS code 29224220 and the E number E621. Trade names of monosodium glutamate include Ajinomoto, Vetsin, Accent and Tasting Powder. It was once made predominantly from wheat gluten, but is now made mostly from bacterial fermentation; it is acceptable for coeliacs following a gluten-free diet.”
According to The European Food Information Council (EUFIC) (http://www.eufic.org/article/en/artid/monosodium-glutamate/ accesswed 12/25/2010) -- a non-profit organization funded by the glutamate industry, which provides glutamate-industry sanctioned so-called “science-based” information on food safety & quality and health & nutrition to the media, health and nutrition professionals and educators, in a way that promotes the sale of monosodium glutamate -- the reader first sees that monosodium glutamate is a naturally occurring amino acid:
“What is monosodium glutamate and where is it found?
Monosodium glutamate is the sodium salt of glutamic acid. Glutamate is a naturally occurring amino acid that is found in nearly all foods, especially high protein foods such as dairy products, meat and fish and in many vegetables. Foods often used for their flavouring properties, such as mushrooms and tomatoes, have high levels of naturally occurring glutamate. The human body also produces glutamate and it plays an essential role in normal body functioning.
Monosodium glutamate added to foods produces a flavouring function similar to the glutamate that occurs naturally in foods. It acts as a flavour enhancer and adds a fifth taste, called “umami”, which is best described as a savoury, broth-like or meaty taste.
In the European Union, monosodium glutamate is classified as a food additive (E621) and regulations are in place to determine how and when it can be added to foods. Typically, monosodium glutamate is added to savoury prepared and processed foods such as frozen foods, spice mixes, canned and dry soups, salad dressings and meat or fish-based products. In some countries, it is used as a table-top seasoning.”
And then the reader is told how this “naturally occurring” amino acid is manufactured:
“How is monosodium glutamate made?
In past times, monosodium glutamate was extracted from natural protein-rich foods such as seaweed. Today, this time-consuming practice is no longer used and monosodium glutamate is made from an industrial fermentation process.”
THE WHOLE TRUTH…
In the first half of the 20th century, food encyclopedias (with articles often written by Ajinomoto, Co., Inc., the world’s largest producer of monosodium glutamate) monosodium glutamate was characterized 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 publically 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.
About the product…
Monosodium glutamate is a product that contains glutamic acid that has been freed from protein by a manufacturing process 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.
Monosodium glutamate is a product, and, without exception, when monosodium glutamate is produced, unwanted by-products of manufacture accompany the manufacture. The subject has been elaborated in a Bulletin of the Japanese Central Customs Laboratory in 1977. (Deki M, Echizen A, Temma T. Minor components in monosodium glutamate. Kanzei Chuo Bunsekishoho. 1977;17:59-62.) 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.
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 unadulterated part of nature.
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.