In memory and appreciation of Adrienne Samuels and her lasting impact on consumer safety and knowledge

Adrienne Samuels, co-founder of the Truth in Labeling Campaign, passed away at her home in Chicago on June 20, 2024; she was 89.

A tireless activist for honesty and clarity in food labeling, Adrienne brought into the spotlight many of the deceitful practices of government agencies, the media, and industry-supported academics. Working alongside her husband Jack, until his death in 2011, she continued to stand up against some of the world’s most powerful corporations.  

Formed in 1994, the Truth in Labeling Campaign was a result of Adrienne’s and Jack’s unintended evolution from typical consumers to consumer advocates in the course of searching for the reasons behind Jack’s puzzling Alzheimer-like symptoms.

The answers came in bits and pieces – a 1990 book In Bad Taste, the MSG Syndrome, by Dr. George Schwartz provided them with the names of ingredients to avoid. But Adrienne, an experimental psychologist by training and an educational psychologist by degree with a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, knew there was much more to unravel.

“What was the common element in the monosodium glutamate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, and the other ingredients named in Dr. Schwartz’s book?” she later recalled. “Without understanding Jack’s sensitivity, there was no way for him to protect himself, and no way for me to help him.”

Eventually, what Adrienne had managed to piece together about the pernicious nature of various disguised additives in food, cosmetics, drugs, supplements, and infant formula was revealed in her 2022 book, The Perfect Poison: the story that Big Food and its friends at the FDA don’t want you to know.

The Truth in Labeling Campaign website, which went online in 1998, is considered one of the foremost sources for concise information on free glutamate (which is the active ingredient in MSG), where it is apt to be found, the innocuous names under which is labeled, and how best to avoid it.

Adrienne’s work on behalf of consumers over the years included sharing her findings with the FDA and various members of Congress, testifying before representatives of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Life Sciences Research Office, and being one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the FDA (Truth in Labeling Campaign et al, vs. Donna Shalala et al), which requested that free glutamate in processed food be clearly identified on product labels.

More recently, in 2020 her research article, “Dose-dependent toxicity of glutamic acid: a review,” was published in the International Journal of Food Properties, where it received many thousands of views.

In 2021 Adrienne filed three citizen petitions with the FDA asking the agency to expose the names of ingredients that contain manufactured glutamate; strip MSG and manufactured glutamate of its GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status and to replace an inaccurate webpage at the FDA – Questions and Answers on Monosodium Glutamate – with truthful information.

By 2022 she had expanded her work on MSG and manufactured free glutamate, completing a review paper titled “Glutamic acid: initiator of the obesity epidemic” that identified them as risk factors for obesity when delivered to fetuses in the womb and infants during nursing.

Thanks to Adrienne and Jack, consumers no longer need to be in the dark as to where excitotoxic glutamic acid might be lurking in processed food and other common products. Their research has also revealed the inside story of how the “Glutes” (as she referred to those working in the glutamate industry) have engineered their “research” to arrive at the predetermined conclusion that MSG is safe and how the FDA still works hand-in-hand with the influential and powerful agents of Ajinomoto, MSG’s major manufacturer, to control what you hear and read about in mainstream media.

“We learned a great deal on this journey,” Adrienne said recently, noting that she was “proud of our accomplishments” that had resulted in a growing awareness of the toxic potential of MSG.

Consumer cognizance, she added, still needs to grow more—something she hoped can still be accomplished by the campaign to which she devoted her life.

Neither Fish nor Fowl, as Imitation Foods Flood the Market the FDA Looks the Other Way

It doesn’t take a degree in marine biology to know that a concoction of pea protein isolates, soy protein concentrate, lentil and faba protein (all brain-damaging free glutamate ingredients), mixed up with some spices, yeast extracts, and natural flavors isn’t anything that came from the sea.

Yet, fake seafood abounds in the supermarket, even in some restaurants. Labeled as crab cakes, fish burgers, fish sticks, salmon burgers, prawns, shrimp, and even tuna, these imitation products are labeled to confuse.

We’ve told you about Good Catch “tuna” in a pouch, TUNO, and a few others, but the market for fake food is increasing so fast, it’s hard to keep up. We’ll give a closer look to some of these products in a minute, but first, let’s look at the labeling – something you would think the FDA would be doing.

According to the trade group the National Fisheries Institute these “alternative” products are “misbranded” and violate FDA’s labeling requirements. While not mentioning the toxic nature of the ingredients, the group says that due to their overall deficiency in nutritional benefits compared to real seafood, they should be required to say “imitation” prominently on package labeling.

“The FDA’s existing requirements state that nutritionally inferior substitutes must be labeled as “imitation.”  Mislabeling food is a serious infraction and can harm consumers both by depriving them of expected nutritional benefits and by possibly exposing them to food allergies.  The FDA statutes state labels that are misleading in any way are regarded as “misbranded.

“…the FDA refuses to enforce such a requirement on highly processed, plant-based alternative products designed and marketed to imitate fish without containing any fish protein.”

The National Chicken Council is also up in arms about fake chicken products labeled as “chicken tenders,” “chick’n strips,” and “chopped chick’n,” to name a few. The council states that such products are “misbranded under the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act.”

But despite such complaints on behalf of industry, it seems that more and more imitation foods are being introduced and purchased by confused consumers looking to eat healthier. While “plant-based” is a great marketing term, all it typically means is that the product came from a manufacturing plant.

Think about it — how many manufactured, toxic flavoring additives does it take to make pea protein or soy protein taste even remotely like crabmeat or tuna?

An Imitation Game

Two companies flooding the market in the fake food business include:

Gathered Foods, makers of the Good Catch line of imitation seafood. This company, which recently opened a manufacturing plant in Ohio (about as far from an ocean as their products are from fish), uses its proprietary “6-plant protein blend” along with a host of natural flavors, oils, starches, yeast extracts, corn starch, methylcellulose, corn maltodextrin, and corn flour to make a “tender, flaky whitefish texture.”

The special protein blend consists of pea protein isolate, soy protein concentrate, chickpea flour, faba protein, lentil protein, and soy protein isolate, all sources of brain-damaging free glutamate.

The company markets fake “crab cakes,” “tuna,” “fish fillets,” “salmon burgers,” along with food service versions so restaurants can cook up seafood fakery too.

Mega-food company Conagra Brands jumped on the pretend protein bandwagon with a complete array of pseudo-foods under the Gardein name. Its “f’sh filets” for example, contain a full line-up of chemical concoctions including “textured vegetable protein product,” “soy protein concentrate,” “titanium dioxide,” “yeast extract,” “natural flavors,” and “autolyzed yeast extract.”

Despite the fakery involved in the marketing of its products, Gathered Foods executives say on their website that they are helping to “feed” and “save the world.”

But however much funding they receive, fancy packaging they create, and cliché mission statements they post, they are nothing more than purveyors of imitation foods filled with toxic, brain-damaging ingredients.

Exactly what are ultra-processed foods and what makes them so unhealthy?

What makes a food “ultra-processed?”

Apologists for Big Food are working hard to make us believe that (with a few exceptions) ultra-processed foods are simply the natural evolution of food processing. Bread, they tell us, is likely the very first “processed” food, originally crafted over 30,000 years ago. Then there are cheeses, beer, and fermented foods – all created by humans to advance how we eat.

But along with the introduction of more and more novel ready-to-eat processed foods (such as canned beans and grape jelly in the 1920s and breakfast cereals hitting the market in the 1940s), something odd happened to large categories of these items. No longer did they retain the basic identity of food itself, with some being made entirely of laboratory-created ingredients.

These new creations, later labeled ultra-processed foods, surreptitiously emerged around the 1980s.

Before this sneaky shift in how many “foods” were being manufactured was realized, however, the effects of consuming these items became quite obvious — a growing epidemic of obesity along with a marked rise in chronic diseases.

And despite the increased scrutiny these types of foods have garnered lately you won’t find any kind of FDA-sanctioned labeling or notice that what you’re considering serving for dinner may look like what’s traditionally thought of as food, only it really isn’t.

The ‘Ultra-Processed Food Group’

Investigations by Dr. Carlos Monteiro, a professor of Nutrition and Public Health in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and other researchers at the University of Sao Paulo led to a first-of-its-kind classification of processed foods called Nova in 2010.

Using Nova, Monterio and others published a paper in 2019 that defines what makes up ultra-processed food.

Ingredients characteristic of ultra-processed foods are either food substances of no or rare culinary use, or else classes of additives whose function is to make the final product sellable, palatable and often hyper-palatable.

Classes of additives used only in the manufacture of ultra-processed foods are flavors, flavor enhancers, colors, emulsifiers, emulsifying salts, artificial sweeteners, thickeners, and foaming, anti-foaming, bulking, carbonating, gelling, and glazing agents. All of them, most notably flavors and colors, either disguise unpleasant sensory properties created by ingredients, processes, or packaging used in the manufacture of ultra-processed foods, or give the final product intense sensory properties especially attractive to see, taste, smell and/or touch, or both.

Manufactured flavoring agents, such as MSG and dozens of other additives containing brain-damaging free glutamate are key indicators of these ultra-processed foods. And all of these additives that make a non-food look and taste like real food have been given free rein by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Monterio gives this tip as a way to ID ultra-processed foods:

Generally, the practical way to identify if a product is ultra-processed is to check to see if its list of ingredients contains at least one item characteristic of the ultra-processed food group. These are either food substances never or rarely used in kitchens or classes of additives whose function is to make the final product palatable or more appealing.

The FDA has done its part to help in the proliferation of this “ultra-processed food group” by distracting consumers into reading its mandated and relatively meaningless nutrition facts label and declaring these toxic additives to be either “safe” or GRAS — generally recognized as safe.

Sadly, also making the Nova list of ultra-processed foods are infant formulas and “meal replacement” beverages for the elderly and infirm.

As Dr. Monterio said in an interview in 2023, the “main purpose of ultra-processed food is to make products that can replace real foods (to) amplify profits of the food industry.”

And when the food industry has friends like the FDA to help it along, you can bet the farm that more ultra-processed foods will be replacing real farm-grown foods than ever before.

The Perfect Poison: The Story That Big Food and Its Friends at the FDA Don’t Want You To Know

A tell-all about the toxic effects of free glutamate and the U.S. regulatory agency that has been successfully suppressing that information for over 50 years.

This is the story of one man’s battle to survive unlabeled poisons in food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and supplements. Poisons that put everyone at risk. Poisons found even in infant formula.

Part memoire, part history, part exposé this book will introduce you to the men and women who manufacture and market toxic chemicals dressed up as food. You will meet the people hired to execute carefully rigged research guaranteed to conclude that excitotoxic — brain damaging — free glutamic acid is safe for human consumption. People who get the government, media and medical community to do their bidding.

This is a story of Jack and Adrienne Samuels, who evolved from typical consumers to consumer advocates. A pair with the courage to stand up to one of the world’s most powerful, heartless corporations and the government agencies that empower it. A couple who worked tirelessly to solve the puzzle of Jack’s curious food sensitivity, and in so doing found that the manufactured free glutamate that caused his medical problems also plays a significant role in the obesity epidemic, various behavior disorders, and the infertility crisis, and likely contributes to a vast number of poorly understood abnormalities of the nervous system such as multiple sclerosis, autism, and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

More than a myth-shattering book, The Perfect Poison provides readers with the tools needed to deal with reactions to excitotoxic manufactured free glutamate found in processed and ultra-processed food, or better yet, to avoid it altogether.

Available in paperback and e-book format here!

MSG on 60 Minutes got people riled up 30 years ago. Could it do the same thing today?

Thirty years ago this 60 Minutes program (video below) on MSG was the second most-watched show of the year. Despite that, the show’s creator Don Hewitt caved to glutamate-industry pressure and refused to air it a second time.

Since then the Glutes have kept a tight wrap on information about the toxic effects of MSG, filling the Internet, newspapers and TV with cleverly crafted propaganda that carries the falsehood MSG is a harmless ingredient.

Yeast extract, the new favorite in processed foods, also contains toxic manufactured free glutamate just as MSG does

Want to know the latest “market strategies” in making processed food yummy and lower in sodium?

Look no further than a recent press release on the “salt substitute market size.” If we skip all the boring industry chatter and get right to the point, yeast extract is apparently the new darling of food companies who are making low sodium processed foods, according to this report.

The manufacturing methods in making yeast extract can vary, but the bottom line is that yeast extract contains toxic free glutamate – not as much toxic free glutamate as MSG – but still enough to do damage. That’s especially true when you think about how many sources of free glutamate there are in foods, snacks and beverages, and how easy it is to consume a large amount.

Our favorite line from this press release, telling why yeast extract is gaining in popularity over MSG is this one: It has replaced Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), which is a sodium salt for glutamic acid. MSG contains 90% of glutamate, which can cause nausea, weakness and headache. Yeast extract only contains 5% of glutamate, making it the more preferred option.

Perhaps this could be a good advertising campaign for a food product replacing MSG with yeast extract: New and improved! Now with fewer headaches, nausea and weakness than our original version that contained MSG!

The MSG migraine connection

Despite the glutamate industry’s widely disseminated marketing material, practically every headache clinic in the U.S. lists MSG as a migraine trigger.  FDA records even list migraines as the single most common reaction to both MSG and the low-cal sweetener aspartame (both of which contain excitotoxic amino acids.)

In addition, the Truth in Labeling Campaign has received untold numbers of reports over the years from those who were able to prevent the intense suffering of a migraine by eliminating sources of free glutamate – which include MSG and dozens of other additives.

You would think that recent findings out of the University of Utah would put the “MSG doesn’t cause migraines myth” away for good. The study, published in the journal Neuron, found that migraines appear to be triggered by “massive ‘plumes’ of glutamate,” described by the researchers as filling the “area between brain cells” and sparking “tsunami-like waves of activity that spread across the brain in migraine and other nervous system disorders.”

Researcher K.C. Brennan, M.D., who participated in the study, calls glutamate plumes “a completely new mechanism of migraine, and it’s a good bet that they are players in other diseases of the nervous system.”

While glutamate plumes may be “something new under the sun,” if you are a frequent blog-reader of the Truth in Labeling Campaign, the fact that free glutamate is a causative factor in a slew of neurological and non-neurological abnormalities, not just migraines, won’t be a new concept. And the fact that this new study doesn’t turn up top-of-the-list for searches on “migraines” is both bad news for the many millions who suffer from what the World Health Organization calls one of the “10 most disabling medical illnesses” one can have, and testimony to the clout of the glutamate industry to keep anything negative about MSG from appearing in major media.

You can read MSG linked to migraines? Chemical used in processed food could trigger brutal headaches at: https://www.studyfinds.org/msg-migraines-processed-food/ And as you read, do note that even while describing in detail how devastating these glutamate plumes can be, the article’s author appears to have felt compelled to promote the “no definite link” between MSG and “poor health” concept the Glutes so often manage to get into print.

As always, the Truth in Labeling Campaign has questions.

What would it take to recognize a definite link between MSG and poor health? Would the manufacturer of MSG have to admit that MSG causes reactions such as migraine headache along with brain damage — and that the FDA has been representing glutamate-industry interests since 1968, if not before?

There are seven lines of evidence leading to the conclusion that manufactured free glutamate, no matter where it is found, is excitotoxic. See https://bit.ly/3vkZ6Cl or if you like graphics with your information, https://7lines.org. Take special note of the details of industry’s programs for rigging studies: https://www.truthinlabeling.org/assets/seven_lines/Seven_Lines_Lines3.pdf and: https://www.truthinlabeling.org/assets/seven_lines/Seven_Lines_Line6.pdf.

You might also be interested in details of the role played by the FDA https://www.truthinlabeling.org/assets/industrys_fda_final.pdf.

The slow, steady, thought-altering drip of propaganda

A tip sheet to help fight back when you encounter the glutes’ ‘mishmash’ of altered facts

Effective propaganda doesn’t just hit once and disappear. It works best as a steady stream, most effectively coming at you from all directions. It puts a grain of sand in your oyster of belief, slowly eroding what you thought to be true.

One of the best propaganda campaigns currently out there is being hosted by Ajinomoto, the world’s largest manufacturer of monosodium glutamate. We’ve seen videos, blogs and “news” stories touting the safety of MSG. We’ve been told that avoiding this brain-damaging additive is somehow “racist.” We’ve been informed that it all started with a 1968 letter sent to the New England Journal of Medicine, and that any idea that this toxic substance is dangerous has been debunked by decades of scientific testing. All this disinformation being orchestrated by those in the glutamate industry who don’t mind spending multi-millions to keep generating their ill-gotten billions.

For that reason, we have prepared the following tip sheet for you. Since most of what is circulating is amazingly similar, you can use it for practically any glute hype that comes your way – and that includes articles in newspapers and magazines, Youtube videos and most especially talks on MSG by celebrity chefs and famous foodies.

Tip sheet to cut through the toxic fog of glutamate fiction

Fiction: MSG is made from corn, wheat, and beets

Truth: Since 1957 monosodium glutamate has been manufactured by using genetically modified bacteria to synthesize glutamic acid outside of their cell membranes and excrete it into a medium to accumulate. This “reinvention” has allowed for huge amounts of the additive to be made and used in previously unheard-of amounts in processed foods of all kinds.

Fiction: Avoiding MSG is somehow racist because of the term “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome”

Truth: As you likely know, Chinese Restaurant Syndrome was the title given to a letter written by a physician and sent to the New England Journal of Medicine seeking information about reactions suffered after eating in a Chinese restaurant in the U.S. Why would avoiding this additive – generally done because of personal experiences such as migraines, asthma, depression, heart-rhythm abnormalities, pain, and even seizures – smack of racism?

Fiction: MSG is known to be perfectly safe – “nobody has come up with any science that says there is a problem with it.”

Truth: The studies cited by the Glutes as evidence of MSG safety are ones in which MSG was fed to volunteers who were given test material containing MSG at one time, and at another time given a placebo that contained (without disclosure) an excitotoxic amino acid — one that would trigger the exact same reactions as those caused by MSG. When subjects reacted to both test material and placebo, researchers claimed to have again failed to demonstrate MSG toxicity. More on this subject can be found here.

Ever vigilant in promoting its views, the glutamate industry has declared that both the FDA and regulators around the world have found monosodium glutamate to be safe. In fact, however, neither independent scientists nor independent regulators have found monosodium glutamate to be safe. FDA studies, which were actually reviews, always have been staffed by persons with ties to the glutamate industry. The regulators and/or authoritative bodies referred to by the glutamate industry did no research of their own. And studies to be reviewed were delivered by industry agents. Studies of MSG-induced brain damage were never shown to these authoritative bodies. It’s known that MSG when fed to very young laboratory animals kills brain cells in the area of the hypothalamus, and, through that damage, causes a number of endocrine disorders. One of those disorders is gross obesity. Another is infertility.

Fiction: The glutamate that naturally occurs in many foods and the glutamate in monosodium glutamate are exactly the same

Truth: The glutamate found in unprocessed, unadulterated and unfermented protein is L-glutamate only. The MSG used in cosmetics, drugs, vaccines, dietary supplements and processed food is manufactured, and always contains L-glutamate plus D-glutamate and pyroglutamate (unwanted byproducts of L-glutamate production) plus other unwanted by-products of production all called impurities. And since industry has not found a way to remove the unwanted impurities from processed free L-glutamate, the glutamate in MSG will always come with impurities.

Only manufactured glutamic acid causes brain damage and adverse reaction when ingested or otherwise used. Glutamate contained in unprocessed, unadulterated and unfermented protein, no matter in what quantities, will not cause reactions in MSG-sensitive people.

Were those beautiful raspberries fertilized with MSG?

We’ve told you previously about a product called AuxiGro, a plant yield enhancer that contains MSG’s toxic component manufactured free glutamate. According to a label found online, AuxiGro WP (wettable powder) contains 29.2 percent L-glutamic acid. 

The Truth in Labeling Campaign first learned of AuxiGro in the late 1990’s and tracked its approval in the U.S. as it made formal objections to federal and state authorities, including the California Department of Pesticide Regulations.

Emerald BioAgriculture, which manufactured AuxiGro for the U.S. market, told us that they “exited the AuxiGro business” starting in 2005, with final sales of the product in 2007. “It is no longer available,” they said.

Or is it?

We recently came across this video (posted up top) from 2014, a testimonial for using AuxiGro on raspberries from Mexico. You don’t need to speak Spanish to get the drift of it – big, beautiful berries, all due to AuxiGro.

While it’s hard enough to determine what pesticides and fertilizers have been used on U.S. grown produce, it’s practically impossible to uncover what has been applied to imports. We have noticed, however, that the imported berries in the supermarket are exceptionally large this year. Is that due to AuxiGro? We’ll probably never know, but where fruits and vegetables are concerned, bigger isn’t always better.

Eating all your fruits and vegetables?

Eating all your fruits and vegetables and still not feeling as chipper as you used to?  You’ve probably checked the purity of the water you drink and determined that you don’t live over a toxic waste dump.  

But have you checked for excitotoxic – brain damaging – free glutamate in the processed foods you’re eating — even ones considered “healthy”?  You’ll find the names of excitotoxic ingredients that are used in food at: https://www.truthinlabeling.org/names.html