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With at least one in three people with some sensitivity to processed free glutamic acid (MSG), wouldn't you think that someone at the Wall Street Journal would have stood up and protested the December 8 industry propaganda piece dressed up as news.   The article, "A New Taste Sensation," which is as badly flawed as glutamate industry studies are badly flawed, appeared both in print and online. 

We wrote letters to four different people at The Wall Street Journal.  Only one of them Katy Mclaughlin, was kind enough to reply. There is a great deal of repetition, one letter to the other. 

This is the gist of what we wrote:

Ms. McLaughlin told her readers that "...many studies have found that MSG doesn't cause ill effects."  That's glutamate industry propaganda.  The truth is that:

--All of these "many studies" were paid for by Ajinomoto or other members of the glutamate industry, and most, if not all, were designed by Ajinomoto's International Glutamate Technical Committee, which provided their researchers with placebos that contained neurotoxic amino acids.
--Every one of these "many studies" is badly flawed--even beyond the point of using neurotoxic amino acids in placebos--and, taken as a whole, these industry-sponsored studies are flawed to the point of being fraudulent. 
(http://www.truthinlabeling.org/TarasoffAndKelly.html)
--There are hundreds of studies that show that monosodium glutamate kills brain cells in laboratory animals and causes subsequent endocrine disorders like obesity and reproductive disorders
(http://www.truthinlabeling.org/HowDoWeKnowMSGcauses.html).  In fact, since the 1980s, researchers (neuroscientists) have been using monosodium glutamate when they want to kill certain brain cells in certain areas of the brain. For verification, please go to PubMed and enter the words "glutamic acid" and "toxic."  Only some of the 880 references I found today are directly relevant.  Typing in "glutamate" and "toxic" brought up 1744 reference.

Today, pharmaceutical companies are pouring millions of dollars into the development of drugs to treat neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease. To date, the drugs showing the most potential for successful treatment are glutamate blockers. Glutamate blockers.  Drugs that block the effects of glutamate.  Glutamate as is found in monosodium glutamate and other MSG containing food ingredients.  Ms. McLaughlin didn't tell that side of the story.

 

Ms. McLaughlin told her readers that monosodium glutamate "is made through a complex process that involves fermenting corn glucose and other raw materials."  That's only a half truth.  Why didn't Ms. McLaughlin tell her readers that today most monosodium glutamate is made using carefully selected genetically modified bacteria which excrete glutamic acid through their cell walls?  That sounds kind of gross, doesn't it?  And things that are "genetically modified" aren't popular right now, either.  For verification you'll want to review Ajinomoto's many patents.

 

Ms. McLaughlin noted that monosodium glutamate's bad reputation as a suspicious additive may have come from consumers' beliefs that monosodium glutamate gives them allergies or headaches.  That's another half truth.  Besides causing brain damage and subsequent endocrine disorders like gross obesity, monosodium glutamate is known to cause migraine headache, asthma, heart irregularities, irritable bowel syndrome, seizures, rage reactions, retinal degeneration, behavior disorders, depression and more.

 

Ms. McLaughlin talked about umami's acceptance as a fifth taste.  But who has really accepted it?  Many of the badly flawed studies done by Ajinomoto Company and friends have been published in the one or two journals that will still publish their badly flawed studies.  In those publications, they claim to have demonstrated that monosodium glutamate is "safe."  That doesn't mean that what they say is true.  Neither does it follow that because industry-sponsored researchers publish a study that says that umami is a fifth taste, what they say is true.  How could it possibly be true?  Wouldn't MSG-sensitive people avoid processed foods that contained the processed free glutamic acid (MSG) found in monosodium glutamate and a variety of other processed food ingredients if they could taste it?  Of course they would.  Which tells us that they can't taste it.

 

Finally, let me tell you about the out and out lie--not just a half truth--that Ms. McLaughlin passes on to her readers.  In general, in the article, processed free glutamic acid (MSG) (which causes adverse reactions) is confused with glutamic acid found in unadulterated protein (which does not cause adverse reactions). Confusing the two in order to confuse consumers is a favorite ploy of the glutamate industry.  Creating the confusion is deceptive and misleading, but it's not an outright lie.  But Ms. McLaughlin goes on to say that "the glutamate in [real] food is the same as the glutamate in [monosodium glutamate], and that's a bold faced lie--and, incidentally, Ajinomoto Company knows it.  For detail, please see  http://www.truthinlabeling.org/HowIsItManufactured.html,  http://www.truthinlabeling.org/III.What%20is%20MSG.html, http://www.truthinlabeling.org/manufac.html, and the various references found in those papers. Should you have further interest, both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Truth in Labeling Campaign have in hand copies of a report from Ajinomoto Company discussing the contaminants found in their monosodium glutamate.

This is what we asked The Wall Street Journal to do:

 

"An immediate apology starting on the first page of Section W of the Weekend Edition of The Wall Street Journal, and a comparable apology on-line would be a start.  You could follow that up with a page and a half article that tells the truth about the hazards of monosodium glutamate and other MSG containing ingredients. That would be roughly comparable to the space you gave to Ajinomoto and friends for propaganda. You might start by reviewing how the "glutes" have manipulated/controlled the media since The Wall Street Journal's Bruce Ingersol covered the 1991 "60 Minutes" segment on MSG; then explain that the glutamate in monosodium glutamate and other ingredients that contain MSG always contains contaminants, and, therefore, differs from the glutamate found in unadulterated protein; tell the story of how the "glutes" invented "clean labels" to hide MSG from consumers; look at glutamate industry-style falsification of data (including, but not limited to, use of neurotoxic amino acids in placebos); and end up with interviews of people who suffer MSG-induced asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, migraine headache, heart irregularities, seizures, depression or other MSG-induced reactions following ingestion of MSG that they can't taste."

This was the reply we received:

Subj:

RE: A New Taste Sensation 

Date:

12/10/2007 10:23:04 A.M. Central Standard Time

From:

Katy.McLaughlin@wsj.com

To:


 

Ms. Samuels,

 

Please see the following portion of my story:

"Some of the biggest promoters of the idea that there are umami-rich alternatives to MSG in many foods we eat are MSG makers themselves. A consortium of MSG manufacturers, led by Ajinomoto, sponsors the Tokyo-based Umami Manufacturers Association. The group hosts conferences about umami and publishes a Web site in English featuring MSG-free umami recipes.

"We are hoping that eventually people will become familiar with why this flavor enhancer is in our food -- well, because it's giving my food the taste that I like," says Kitty Broihier, a consultant for Ajinomoto Food Ingredients, a Chicago-based subsidiary of Ajinomoto. By emphasizing that the glutamate in food is the same as the glutamate in MSG, makers hope to make people think of MSG as a more natural ingredient."

Sources for the story included a broad range of scientists, industry executives, and chefs.  All research that was funded in part by Ajinomoto or other ingredient companies was identified.  I feel the story was very clear in explaining where information came from. 

 

Katy McLaughlin 
Special Writer

Wall Street Journal