If it wasn’t harmful, it wouldn’t be hidden

There’s a really nice article detailing the history of MSG production in Worldkings — an Indian organization that notes significant achievements in a number of categories.

They featured Ajinomoto as one of the top 100 companies that have been in business over 100 years. But more than just a tip of the hat, Worldkings follows Ajinomoto from the day they introduced the original MSG into the market in 1909 through World War I, the opening of an office in New York, even noting that in April 1946 the company changed their name to Ajinomoto Co., Ltd. By 1950, the article says, exports from Japan accounted for 95% of the company’s revenue, with trade to Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States increasing in subsequent years.

Then we learn that in the 1970s, Ajinomoto diversified further, launching a flavored seasoning called “Hon-dashi” in 1970 and beginning production of frozen foods in 1972.

But wait! Big things happened between 1950 and 1970. In 1957 a new and brilliant method for producing the glutamic acid used in MSG was introduced — a method that soon would be used world-wide for manufacture of amino acids. Brilliant science! Amazing profits! So, why was this not mentioned?

Has it got something to do with the method itself? According to a 1996 article by Leung and Foster in the Encyclopedia of common natural ingredients used in food, drugs, and cosmetics (the only such article without Ajinomoto’s authorship or sponsorship), the glutamic acid in monosodium glutamate is generally made by microbial fermentation. In this method, bacteria are grown aerobically in a liquid nutrient medium. The bacteria have the ability to excrete glutamic acid they synthesize outside of their cell membrane into the liquid nutrient medium in which they are grown. The glutamic acid is then separated from the fermentation broth by filtration, concentration, acidification, and crystallization, and converted to its monosodium salt.

Official patents dealing with the manufacture of glutamic acid confirm that Ajinomoto’s monosodium glutamate is made by this process of bacterial fermentation wherein carefully selected genetically engineered bacteria that are fed on various carbohydrate media secrete glutamic acid through their cell walls.

In stark contrast, the FDA, The Glutamate Association, and all of Ajinomoto’s other “divisions” maintain that MSG is usually produced through a fermentation process similar to that used in making beer, vinegar and yogurt, with MSG production beginning with the fermentation of corn, sugar beets or sugar cane.

Could there be concern that hearing about use of bacteria, particularly GMO bacteria, might turn people off?

Maybe they’re worried that discussing the way in which MSG is manufactured would suggest that there’s nothing “natural” about it.

Perhaps there’s fear it will leak out that unavoidable by-products (impurities) are produced when L-glutamic acid (the flavor-enhancing constituent of glutamic acid) and MSG are manufactured. D-glutamic acid and pyroglutamic acid are two powerful neurotoxins that would certainly attract the attention of toxicologists. (In all of their writings about the safety of MSG, Ajinomoto has never acknowledged the existence of impurities. That stands to reason because truly natural products wouldn’t have impurities.)

Possibly more important, however, would be hiding the fact that with virtually unlimited production of MSG it could become available in such quantities that the glutamate in MSG would become excitotoxic – capable of killing brain cells. And with the change in glutamic acid’s production method, that’s exactly what happened. There is now sufficient glutamic acid in food to become excitotoxic for anyone consuming more than one glutamate-containing product during the course of a day. Not hard to do considering the vast amounts of cheap processed and ultra-processed foods available.

Other important and unmentioned things happened between 1950 and 1970:

  • In 1968, Dr. Ho Man Kwok wrote to the New England Journal of Medicine describing a set of reactions following MSG ingestion, that were eventually dubbed “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.”
  • In 1969 Dr. John Olney observed that free glutamic acid and MSG administered to infant mice caused brain lesions in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus, and that brain damage was followed by obesity, behavior disorders, reproductive dysfunction and a variety of other neuro-endocrine disorders.
  • The term “excitotoxin” was coined to stand for an amino acid (like glutamic acid) that serves a necessary function when present in controlled amounts, but kills brain cells when quantities greater than required for normal body function become available.

The adage “If it wasn’t harmful, it wouldn’t be hidden” seems to apply perfectly here.

If you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you. If you have hints for others on how to avoid exposure to MfG, send them along, too, and we’ll put them up on Facebook. Or you can reach us at questionsaboutmsg@gmail.com and follow us on Twitter @truthlabeling.

If MfG wasn’t harmful, it wouldn’t be hidden in drugs

When MSG and other sources of toxic manufactured free glutamic acid (MfG) are used in pharmaceuticals as excipients (a.k.a. “inactive” ingredients), manufacturers are not required to share that information with the public. This past June the Truth in Labeling Campaign reviewed the excipients found in vaccines with some frightening findings. The MfG we found hidden there will also be found throughout the realm of pharmaceuticals, both OTC and Rx ones.

The following excerpt from the recently posted article “What’s in your medicine may surprise you – a call for greater transparency about inactive ingredients,” published by conversation.com will give you an idea of what consumers are up against.

Product labeling for ‘inactive’ ingredients

“As the so-called ‘inactive’ ingredients in medicines, excipients are often mistaken as being free from potential harm. But the evidence suggests otherwise. Between 2015 to 2019, health-care professionals, patients, and manufacturers filed nearly 2,500 reports to the FDA about an adverse reaction to an excipient.

“While excipients are listed on packaging or package insert for over-the-counter and prescription drugs, this information can be difficult to find. Furthermore, patients often switch from brand name to generic versions, or the pharmacist substitutes one manufacturer for another. While the active pharmaceutical ingredient remains the same, excipients may be different, and even seemingly slight differences can significantly impact patient safety. For example, a patient may be allergic to an excipient in the newly refilled medicine with a different manufacturer.

“Excipients are critical materials and serve a broad variety of functions. They serve as fillers, help the body to absorb the medicine, and add flavor or color to drugs. In fact, some are often found in food products, such as lactose, peanut oil, and starch. In the United States, excipients are approved by the FDA as part of the review process for the finished medicine; they are considered by the regulatory agency as generally recognized as safe or ‘GRAS.’ However, a complete picture of their clinical effect remains unclear.

“Research from MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital has found that 92.8% of oral medicines contain at least one potential allergen, a concern for individuals with known sensitivities and intolerances. My recent research, investigating the safety of excipients in biologics, which are large complex molecules that are mostly administered through an injection, found case reports of injection site reaction, severe allergic reaction, spike in blood sugar level, and acute kidney failure associated with these ‘inactive’ ingredients.

“Despite some evidence that excipients are responsible for drug reactions, the amount of each excipient added to each drug is not reported for nearly half of biological medicines. In fact, our study found that 44.4% of the biologics’ labels do not list the concentration of the most commonly occurring excipients. This is true for all prescription medicines, not only biologics.

“This lack of information has important implications for patients with diseases prompting dietary restrictions – such as gluten or lactose intolerance, food allergies, or diabetes – because the amount of wheat starch, lactose, peanut oil, and glucose in their medicine can be potentially harmful.”

Knowledge is power. With the FDA working for both Big Food and Big Pharma, knowledge is your greatest asset.

If you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you. If you have hints for others on how to avoid exposure to MfG, send them along, too, and we’ll put them up on Facebook. Or you can reach us at questionsaboutmsg@gmail.com and follow us on Twitter @truthlabeling.

The hoax behind the ‘clean label’ on Impossible Burger

There aren’t many places you can find excitotoxic (brain-damaging) amino acids in greater quantity, packaged so nicely, and promoted with such vigor. And this fake meat product sports what industry calls a “clean label,” meaning you won’t find any monosodium glutamate listed.

What you will find in the Impossible Burger, however, are five main ingredients — what Impossible Foods calls the “details,” and a total of 6 ingredients with excitotoxic – brain damaging — amino acids.

They are:

  • Water
  • soy-protein concentrate
  • coconut oil
  • sunflower oil
  • natural flavors

Impossible “meat” also contains 2% or less of:

  • Potato protein
  • Methylcellulose
  • Yeast extract
  • Cultured dextrose
  • Food starch, modified
  • Soy leghemoglobin
  • Salt
  • Soy-protein isolate
  • Mixed tocopherols (vitamin E)
  • Zinc gluconate
  • Thiamine hydrochloride (Vitamin B1)
  • Sodium ascorbate (vitamin C)
  • Niacin
  • Pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6)
  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
  • Vitamin B12

If you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you. If you have hints for others on how to avoid exposure to MfG, send them along, too, and we’ll put them up on Facebook. Or you can reach us at questionsaboutmsg@gmail.com and follow us on Twitter @truthlabeling.

Was the Center for Science in the Public Interest ever really interested in the public?

It’s not unheard of for corporate propagandists to hijack grassroots organizations to further their agendas. Of course, the bigger, more respected and highly financed a non-profit group is, the better.

From what we’ve learned in dealing with the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), led until three years ago by its salt-and-fat fighting guru Michael Jacobson, we can’t help but wonder when CSPI lost its way, promoting industry strategies instead of the “public interest.”

When Jacobson stepped down as president of CSPI in 2017 (although still said to be serving as a senior scientist with the organization), he was hailed as a “pioneer of food activism.” CSPI got big media buzz on crusades such as the movie-theater popcorn “Godzilla” campaign and the fettuccini Alfredo “heart attack on a plate” press release – leading to the group frequently being referred to as the “Food Police.”

But as Jack Samuels (co-founder of the Truth in Labeling Campaign) discovered many years ago, asking for CSPI’s involvement in what we thought would make more people aware of the dangers of MSG ended up going in the other direction.

Science in the corporate interest?

When Jack first approached CSPI back in the early 1990s, it seemed the group was aware of both the health risks of consuming MSG as well as the fact that the FDA was refusing to provide full disclosure of manufactured free glutamate (MfG) on food labels (still true to this day).

In 1993 he received a letter from Margo Wootan (recently promoted to CSPI vice president for nutrition) that indicated CSPI knew full well there is a difference between natural and “synthesized MSG,” as she called it. “It is a question that does not seem to be adequately addressed,” she wrote, accurately stating that manufactured MSG contains both D and L glutamic acid, which might explain why some people “react only to synthesized/added MSG but not to naturally occurring glutamate” that contains only “L.” (For more on that topic, go here).

While that might seem like a negligible point, it’s key to the glutamate industry’s spin that there is zero difference between unadulterated glutamic acid (including what’s found in the human body) and manufactured glutamic acid.

Jacobson and CSPI had the power to turn that into headlines. But they didn’t. Perhaps it wasn’t as sexy as “heart attack on a plate,” but it sure would be as important to the public.

After Jack received that initial note, which made him think we had found allies in our efforts to inform consumers, CSPI’s attitude mysteriously changed.

Jack described one case where an independent journalist was planning to cover a meeting of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), organized to hear testimony on the safety of MSG. The writer canceled, however, after talking to Jacobson and being told MSG was a “non-issue,” and that he would be wasting his time.

Later, when Jack had high hopes that the FDA was taking notice and might act on unlabeled MfG in food, a CSPI staffer wrote to the agency saying that not enough was known about MSG to take any action. Jacobson even went so far as to tell the Wall Street Journal in an interview in 2007, “I don’t see normal amounts of MSG as posing a risk to the vast majority of people.”

Jacobson continued to practically parrot the glutamate industry when he told a writer in 2013 that he has been “waiting 30 years to see any decent studies, especially of people who claim to be extremely sensitive to MSG…”

And, as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Currently CSPI actively promotes food products that contain MSG and MfG, such as Campbell’s Vegetable Soup with beef stock, loaded with yeast extract, hydrolyzed soy protein, hydrolyzed wheat gluten and monosodium glutamate. The group has a photo of the can with a green box around it indicating the soup’s superiority to other, higher-salt brands on its Pinterest page.

For anyone who still believes that CSPI is a consumer watchdog, ferociously guarding your best interests, it’s time to take another look. That reputation is certainly what supports the group, which is said to have an annual income of over $17 million, mostly from newsletter subscriptions and to a lesser degree, donations. And with the new CSPI president, Peter Lurie, coming straight from the FDA, it doesn’t seem too likely that the group will change its tune anytime soon.

As was said in an editorial over 20 years ago: With enemies like CSPI, the industrial barons squeezing the life out of our natural bounty need no friends.

If you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you. If you have hints for others on how to avoid exposure to MfG, send them along, too, and we’ll put them up on Facebook. Or you can reach us at questionsaboutmsg@gmail.com and follow us on Twitter @truthlabeling.

The Truth About AJI-NO-MOTO®

Reading about the Umami Seasoning Day celebration in Lagos, Nigeria, we came across an article titled The Truth About AJI-NO-MOTO, which we felt needed clarification. The update we offer here is based on the motto of The Truth in Labeling Campaign: “The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about MSG.”

Note: our revisions are in red type and the patently false statements have been crossed out.

The Truth About AJI-NO-MOTO® — clarified by the Truth in Labeling Campaign

Since 1909 AJI-NO-MOTO® Umami Seasoning has been used to bring out the best taste in food all over the world. The extensive body of research produced by Ajinomoto which exists about this widely used ingredient has been reviewed by independent Ajinomoto’s scientists and regulatory authorities (to whom Ajinomoto provided all materials for review) throughout the world – all have found of whom claim that MSG to be safe is harmless.

You can find out more about this from our parent site the Truth in Labeling Campaign here.

Feel safe enjoying tastes and eating

AJI-NO-MOTO® (MSG) has been safely used as a food ingredient since 1909. However, due to the common misconceptions, growing numbers of reports of adverse reactions caused by MSG, it is now claimed to be one of the most thoroughly tested of all food ingredients, with hundreds of scientific studies financed by Ajinomoto confirming proclaiming its safe and effective use. MSG’s safety has been repeatedly affirmed by regulators and scientific agencies around the world who were given selected studies done by Ajinomoto’s agents to use in drawing their conclusions that MSG is harmless.

History of scientific studies for MSG around the world

In the early 1950s, as processed foods increased in many countries all over the world, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) of the United Nations established a new committee, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), to evaluate the safety of food additives.

JECFA* evaluated the safety of glutamate in 1970, 1973 and 1987, all overseen by members of the glutamate industry. After three safety evaluations, JECFA placed MSG in the safest category, “Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) not specified”.

In 1991, the European Commission’s Scientific Committee for Food (SCF), after considering studies brought to it by Ajinomoto’s agents, also affirmed MSG’s safety. Having reviewed the most advanced and up-to-date research created by Ajinomoto on glutamate, the SCF published a report in 1991 which designated an ‘ADI not specified’ for MSG.

In 1995, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), with a review panel staffed by persons with conflicts of interest, reaffirmed the safety of MSG for the general population. In its review, commissioned by the FDA, FASEB’s panel of reviewers with serious conflicts of interest, found looked for no evidence linking MSG to any serious or long-term health effects, which led the FDA used to again reaffirm that MSG is a safe food ingredient at normally consumed levels.

If you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you. If you have hints for others on how to avoid exposure to MfG, send them along, too, and we’ll put them up on Facebook. Or you can reach us at questionsaboutmsg@gmail.com and follow us on Twitter @truthlabeling.