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Your government in action: the system that promotes the unregulated use of MSG

According to legend, the safety of our food supply lies in the capable hands of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

According to the mandate given when those agencies were created, they bear responsibility for guaranteeing the health of the nation.

Over time, however, those three agencies have come to exercise their power for assuring the financial health of the food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic industries they were created to regulate -- and to do so without regard for the well-being of consumers.  They do so with the blessing of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

The FDA makes and enforces food labeling laws; and it is the FDA that determines whether or not processed free glutamic acid (MSG), or any other chemical, will be approved for use in food.  The FDA has been cooperating with Ajinomoto Company, Inc. members of its International Glutamate Technical Committee and The Glutamate Association, and with the International Hydrolyzed Protein Council since 1968, if not before.   The bottom line of that cooperative effort as it pertains to regulation of MSG, is to prevent full and clear disclosure of MSG in processed food – or anywhere else, for that matter.

Glutamate industry involvement in FDA matters is rarely obvious.  That's what makes it so effective in preventing meaningful labeling of MSG.  FDA/industry cooperation goes back to 1958, the time that the food ingredient called "monosodium glutamate" was first deemed "safe" by the FDA.  Not found to be safe and thereupon added to the GRAS (generally regarded as safe) list.  Only deemed to be safe because prior to the institution of the GRAS list in 1958, there had been no record of adverse reactions to "monosodium glutamate.

The first record of FDA/industry cooperation/collusion that we have in our files is from September of 1969, when then FDA Commissioner Ley testified before the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Health, and presented evidence from four studies that, he alleged, demonstrated that MSG was safe. It was later disclosed that two of the studies Commissioner Ley cited were incomplete and two did not even exist.

Why was it 1969 before FDA/industry collusion was first demonstrated?  Because before that time there had been no need.  It was not until 1968 that the first report of adverse reactions to monosodium glutamate was published in The New England Journal of Medicine; and in 1969 that the first evidence that monosodium glutamate caused brain lesions and endocrine disorders in experimental animals was published in Science.

The FDA has built and then reinforced its case for the "safety" of MSG on misleading and deceptive studies sponsored by the glutamate industry.  FDA regulations require that those who manufacture food additives must provide evidence demonstrating that they are "safe."  The glutamate industry has, indeed, presented evidence; but they have falsified data -- not by changing test scores or research results, but by rigging the procedures used in conducting their studies so that only after careful scrutiny would one discern that their studies were flawed to the point of being fraudulent[A].  Glutamate industry studies are generally methodologically inadequate, statistically unsound, and/or irrelevant to the safety/toxicity of MSG.  Researchers have gone so far as to use aspartame and/or MSG in placebos to cause subjects to respond to placebos just as they would respond to monosodium glutamate test materail. Moreover, industry’s researchers have been known to draw conclusions that did not follow from the results of their studies.

Over the course of the last 34 years, the FDA has summarily dismissed much of the research that clearly demonstrates that MSG places humans at risk. Reports of adverse reactions to MSG collected by its own Adverse Reactions Monitoring System have been dismissed because "they could have been caused by something else."

The FDA has suppressed results of studies that might suggest that use of processed free glutamic acid (MSG) places humans at risk.  The FDA suppressed results of a study that suggested that use of processed free glutamic acid (MSG) in supplements is unsafe.  In that July, 1992, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) report, FASEB concluded, in part, that:

 

"...it is prudent to avoid the use of dietary supplements of L-glutamic acid by pregnant women, infants, and children.... and...by women of childbearing age and individuals with affective disorders."   (MSG is called L-glutamic acid when used in supplements.)

 

The FDA has distorted results of its own research to serve the propaganda needs of the glutamate industry.  In a 1995 study, the FDA's D.H. Daniels, F. L. Joe, Jr. and G.W. Diachenko reported, as fact, data that came from their own potentially unreliable procedures, and also misrepresented the research findings of others.

 

The FDA has refused to recall foods advertised as "No MSG," "No Added MSG," or "No MSG Added" even though those foods contain ingredients that are sources of free glutamic acid, such as hydrolyzed protein, and are, therefore, in direct violation of Section 403(a)(1) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

(The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) goes a step farther.  They approve labels that advertise "No MSG Added" even though the labels declare hydrolyzed proteins in their ingredient panels - in direct violation of Section 403 (a) (1) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.)

Historically, every time concern about MSG toxicity has intensified, the FDA has called for an "independent" review of the safety of MSG and has, thereby, stalled addressing the issue.  Historically, the FDA has contracted with groups that provided consultants with strong ties to the glutamate industry, and/or structured the "independent" review to rely primarily on industry sponsored data.  Legislators who inquire about the safety of MSG are told that the issue is being studied.  Manufacturers who inquire are told that there is a study being done, but that "If the outcome of the review raises substantive questions about the safety of MSG, FDA will require industry to conduct studies to resolve the questions," or "FDA won't be bound by its conclusions."

In 1992, the FDA contracted with FASEB to do an "independent" review of the safety of MSG in food.  Every aspect of that study was marked by lack of objectivity and FDA/FASEB pro-industry bias.  For example, in their Request for Proposal, the FDA asked questions that could not be answered; appointed Expert Panel members (at least four of the eight members selected by FASEB) who had ties to the glutamate industry (conflicts of interest); attempted to eliminate relevant non-industry data from consideration; and when a draft of the FASEB final report was finally submitted to the FDA in September, 1994, that report was leaked to the glutamate industry, found unacceptable to them, and was sent back to FASEB by the FDA for "further study."

Release of the final report had initially been delayed a month or two beyond its original March, 1994 target date. In September, 1994, when the draft final report was finally submitted to the FDA, it was leaked to members of the glutamate industry; rejected by them; and formally rejected by the FDA which claimed that the report needed "clarification".  Circumstances surrounding the FDA's rejection of the draft final report and the unanticipated resignation of the FASEB project director following that rejection, suggest that initial delays had not accomplished their purpose: that even Expert Panel members with ties to the glutamate industry could not (or would not) state that MSG is "safe;" and/or that glutamate industry researchers needed time to complete ongoing double-blind studies on the safety of MSG sponsored by the International Glutamate Technical Committee (IGTC) that would be used to convince the Expert Panel of the safety of MSG.

The FDA/FASEB contract to provide "clarification" (signed February 1, 1995) tended to confirm the suggestion that evidence of MSG toxicity was so overwhelming that FASEB could not deny it, and neither could the FDA.  It might even have been that questions we had asked of researchers conducting double-blind studies for the IGTC had made them cautious: possibly made them unwilling to expose themselves to almost certain criticism for poor methodology.  Whatever the reason, the objective of the new contract appears to have been to provide the FDA with data they could use for refusing to identify all MSG.  Specifically, the FDA asked FASEB to review data relevant to possible limitations on the use of glutamates, recommendation of special labeling requirements, and/or recommended levels of use of glutamates.   As if to guarantee the outcome of the FASEB report, the FDA, in the Background Section of its contract, referred to evidence that people react to doses of 3 grams or more MSG, but failed to refer to evidence (from the same study as well as others) that people react to doses of less than 3 grams MSG.  The FDA also mentioned, in its new contract, that asthma can be "worsened" with doses of more than 2.5 grams MSG, but failed to mention that asthma can also be "worsened" with doses of less than 2.5 grams MSG, and that MSG can trigger asthma-type attacks in non-asthmatics.  Because FASEB was required, or chose, to respond directly to questions asked by the FDA, and to respond only to questions asked by the FDA, structuring the contract to the point of directing FASEB to consider certain data, while ignoring certain other data, guaranteed the study's outcome.

It must be repeated that evidence suggests that the February 1, 1995 FDA/FASEB contract was entered into in order to justify the FDA's refusal to require that all MSG in processed food be labeled.

The FDA's rejection of the FASEB September, 1994 draft final report on the safety of MSG in food was not without precedent.  When a FASEB committee submitted its evaluation of the safety of MSG to the FDA in July, 1978, the FDA returned the report "for updating in light of new information on these substances presented at an international symposium in May, 1978."  The symposium in question had been sponsored by the glutamate industry, and, with rare exception, the research reported had been sponsored by them, too.

Controlling reviews of the "safety" (never "toxicity") of MSG has not been the "glutes" only outlet. Their power can be seen in the FDA's appointment of Andrew G. Ebert, Ph.D. Chairman of the International Glutamate Technical Committee, and Kristen McNutt, Ph.D., J.D., a spokesperson sponsored by The Glutamate Association, to the FDA Food Advisory Committee -- and the FDA's refusal to appoint a single person who might be considered a consumer advocate.

The appointment of McNutt and Ebert, and the refusal to appoint a consumer advocate demonstrates clear cut conflict of interest.  Appointment of Ebert, and subsequent refusal to dismiss him, also demonstrates the FDA's complicity in clear cut scientific fraud.

Why fraud?  Because Ebert has distributed both test materials and materials that he called placebos (inert substances that could not possibly cause a physical reaction in a person who ingested them) for use in double-blind studies designed to demonstrate that MSG is safe. And the supposed placebos that Ebert distributed were not inert substances at all, but actually contained aspartame, a substance made up of aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and a methyl esther.  Aspartic acid is a neurotoxic amino acid and structural analog of glutamic acid, the primary ingredient in MSG.  Both aspartic acid and glutamic acid cause brain lesions, retinal deterioration, and neuroendocrine disorders in laboratory animals.  In addition, not only are there are over 7,000 records of adverse reactions to aspartame on file with the FDA, the reactions mentioned are the same reactions reported by people who are sensitive to MSG.  Even the relative frequency with which the reactions occur is the same.  Could it be other than by purposeful intent that Ebert not only defiled the integrity of the placebo, but used a substance outside of glutamic acid that would not only guarantee adverse reactions in people who are exposed to amounts that exceeded their dose tolerance levels, but would precipitate the same reactions as MSG?

You have to understand just how the game is played in order to appreciate the hold that industry has on every branch of government in this country; on a large part of the scientific community; and on the media.  We have come to believe that the glutamate industry believes that if processed free glutamic acid (MSG) was ever labeled, consumers would realize that processed free glutamic acid (MSG) was causing or exacerbating illness and disease; and that exposing that fact would cost the glutamate industry billions of dollars in lost revenues. So researchers are hired to turn out research that claims to have demonstrated the safety of processed free glutamic acid (MSG); physicians, "scientists," and public relations firms are hired to fabricate stories about the safety of processed free glutamic acid (MSG); the FDA, USDA, and EPA, possibly through the revolving door system that has become commonplace, appear to do the bidding of the rich and powerful food, drug, and cosmetic industries, saying -- with authority -- that their toxic products are "safe;" and legislators ignore the fact that millions of pounds of neurotoxic MSG are being fed to our children, ourselves, and the elderly, and that millions of people are suffering because of it.

And if you, the taxpayer, are concerned what do you do?  If you are aggressive, you protest to the EPA, FDA, or USDA that MSG is toxic and should be regulated in some way. If the agency responds, they might tell you that they have seen no evidence that MSG is toxic. (They won't be honest enough to tell you that the evidence is there, but they are not permitted to look at it.) They might tell you that the animal studies that show that MSG is toxic were done on animals and are, therefore, irrelevant to humans. (They will ignore the fact that in this country we do toxicity studies on laboratory animals. We do not do toxicity studies on humans.)  And if the agency has no excuse what-so-ever, the agency simply will not respond. They may write you a letter, but the contents of the letter will not speak to your concerns.

Undaunted, you, the rare aggressive taxpayer, may write to your congressperson and/or senators, tell them that MSG is toxic, and ask them to see to it that MSG is regulated in some way. They, in turn, pass your inquiry on to the EPA, FDA, or USDA as appropriate, and send you a letter telling you that the agency in question has been asked to respond. And what does that agency do? They fill a page or two with ambiguous words and phrases, half-truths, and downright lies and send it off to your legislator(s), who, in turn, forward the agency's letter to you.

What's a consumer to do? Industry depends on the fact that most consumers will throw up their hands in frustration and disgust and do nothing. What the consumer should do, of course, is to fire off an immediate reply to their legislator(s): 1) pointing out the flaws in the agency's letters to them, and 2) asking the legislator(s) to do something on their behalf. Stand up to the glutamate industry.  Speak out.  That's what every consumer should do.

Industry also depends on the fact that industry controls the media. Not since 1991 when "60 Minutes" did a segment on MSG, and there was comment on radio, TV, and in a number of major newspapers, has there been mention in any major media outlet about MSG.  Want to know why?  Take a look at the members of the boards of directors of major media.  Take a look at their advertisers.  Enough said.

Every legislator depends on the votes of consumers.  Newspapers live off of the people who buy them, and TV stations live off their ratings. Let those people hear of your displeasure  Ask you family and friends to do the same -- one letter, one call, and one vote at a time could add up to the labeling of MSG.  Your most powerful weapon in your own defense is to stop buying products that contain MSG.

The FDA is diametrically opposed to letting consumers know where MSG is hidden in food. 

For two decades, the glutamate industry, led by Ajinomoto Company, Inc. and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) maintained that MSG did not cause or exacerbate brain lesions or neuroendocrine disorders. Later, no longer able to deny the relationship between MSG and brain lesions, the glutamate industry, the FDA, and the USDA changed their argument for the safety of MSG to the argument that brain lesions and neuroendocrine disorders can be caused by MSG, but only in laboratory animals; and that what applies to those laboratory animals does not apply to humans. Finally, faced with growing consumer recognition that processed free glutamic acid (MSG) is causing adverse reactions in substantial numbers of people; and that the glutamate cascade is implicated in such disease conditions as addiction, stroke, epilepsy, degenerative disorders (Alzheimer's disease, ALS, and Parkinson's disease, for example), brain trauma, neuropathic pain, schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression; the glutamate industry changed its strategy. Instead of having the FDA claim that essentially no one is sensitive to processed free glutamic acid (MSG), Ajinomoto and friends would agree to labeling some processed free glutamic acid (MSG), but not all processed free glutamic acid (MSG). And they would only agree to labeling processed free glutamic acid (MSG) when found in amounts that far exceeded the amounts of processed free glutamic acid (MSG) presently found in processed food. The subject is described in detail in The FDA's Next Move.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Traditionally, the USDA has complied with FDA regulations pertaining to food products, even when those food products are regulated by the USDA. However, the USDA has chosen to ignore the FDA's decision to consider use of the words "No Added MSG" or "No MSG Added" to be deceptive, misleading, and therefore illegal when a product contains processed free glutamic acid (MSG). In fact, the USDA approves labels that are, according to the FDA, illegal.

It is worth noting that the USDA (champion of big business) now regulates the organic industry.  The glutes, most notably through an organization called the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) have, for years, been trying to have MSG granted organic status.  Sadly, there are a number of MSG-containing ingredients already granted organic status.  Rest assured there will be more.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and the California Department of Food and Agriculture

These agencies have more recently become involved with the issue of the safety/toxicity of MSG. In 1997, the EPA approved the use of processed free glutamic acid in plant "growth enhancers," clearing the way for their use in fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides as well, and on every crop know to agriculture. California, a State known as having stricter safety standards than the EPA, has approved the use of processed free glutamic acid for various uses related to various products.

The United States Congress

Congresspersons don't have to lie to consumers who ask them to label MSG. They have the FDA, the EPA, and the USDA to do it for them.

  



[A] The term 'fraud' is generally defined in the law as an intentional misrepresentation of material existing fact made by one person to another with knowledge of its falsity and for the purpose of inducing the other person to act, and upon which the other person relies with resulting injury or damage. [Fraud may also include an omission or intentional failure to state material facts, knowledge of which would be necessary to make other statements not misleading.] Accessed on 11/4/2010 at the 'Lectric Law Library's Lexicon (http://www.lectlaw.com/def/f079.htm)