Enough to get her fired?

In January Food Navigator-USA ran the story “Ajinomoto defends MSG as nonprofit petitions FDA to rescind its GRAS status.” And Ajinomoto’s Tia Rains fired back with a classic piece of glutamate-industry propaganda.

It’s not what she said in the piece that’s so interesting, because it’s classic industry talk. What is interesting is the fact that Ajinomoto responded at all.

For 50+ years, the Glutes have pretty much ignored criticism from those who have maintained that MSG is toxic. It would appear that they’ve used this strategy to keep questions of glutamate sensitivity out of the media – just letting any question of harm done by MSG die a slow, quiet death. And this strategy, along with rigging the research they’ve presented to the FDA as evidence of MSG’s safety, has been incredibly effective, for this excitotoxic, brain damaging food additive is still being advertised as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA.

So why the change in strategy? Or did Tia Rains make a terrible mistake. Terrible enough to get her fired.

Reminder: Please take a moment to comment on this petition at the link below.

Go to www.Regulations.gov, and put this docket number FDA-2021-P-0035 in the search box, click “search.” There you’ll see a link to the petition and a button that says “comment.”

NOTE: If you’re commenting on Tuesday or Thursday an extra step is needed as the FDA site is being updated twice a week. On those days:

Go to www.regulations.gov and put this docket number FDA-2021-P-0035 in the search box, click “search.”

On the left side, it will say “Document Type,” check the “other” box and then click on the second document titled “Citizen petition from Adrienne Samuels” and you’ll see a “Comment” button at the top.

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.

High anxiety and 60 Minutes

October 1991 will always be a month to remember. We had learned that 60 Minutes was considering doing a piece on MSG, and Jack had volunteered to provide them with accurate information about this toxic food additive that would cause him to go into anaphylactic shock.

In early 1990, we had become aware that a segment on MSG was in the works, and over the course of its development, Jack had provided information to Grace Dickhaus and Roz Karson, producers of the 60 Minutes segment.

In March 1991, a producer for the CBS news show called Ajinomoto announcing that they were thinking of doing a segment on Ajinomoto’s product. According to the Wall Street Journal, a group of trade associations launched one of the largest pre-emptive campaigns in public relations history. Specifically, “A crisis-management team specializing in 60 Minutes damage control has been hired to help the industry execute an elaborate game plan to forestall a repeat of the 1989 Alar-on-apples scare.” It was a copy of that crisis-management team’s “July-December 1991 Communications Plan” designed (or possibly simply distributed) by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) that Jack sent to the Wall Street Journal. We had received the “war plan” for IFIC’s assault on 60 Minutes from an anonymous donor on September 4, 1991.

From 1990 till the story aired in 1991, Jack provided information on the toxicity of monosodium glutamate to the 60 Minutes team and later to Bruce Ingersol of the Wall Street Journal – information that they were delighted to confirm. Following are excerpts from Bruce Ingersol’s October 31, 1991 article, “A Case of TV Jitters.”

Adrienne Samuels

Excerpts from A CASE OF TV JITTERS, by Bruce Ingersoll, Wall Street Journal

It has become a business executive’s worst nightmare. The phone rings. A woman on the other end identifies herself as a producer for the CBS News show 60 Minutes. “We are thinking,” she says, “of doing a segment on your product.”

For the food industry, that nightmare began last March. The call went to the Glutamate Association, which represents manufacturers and users of monosodium glutamate. But the shock waves spread quickly. Monosodium glutamate, a flavor enhancer better known as MSG, is used in everything from chicken chow mein to corn chips. A 60 Minutes attack on MSG would be felt throughout the $280 billion-a-year food industry.

No one outside CBS knows when, or even whether, the show will go on the air. No one knows for sure what position it will take or what will be said.

That hasn’t stopped a group of trade associations from launching one of the largest pre-emptive campaigns in public-relations history. They are assuming the worst: A Fearing show’s segment will assail monosodium glutamate, the industry launched a public relations defense.

A crisis-management team specializing in 60 Minutes damage control has been hired to help the industry execute an elaborate game plan. Industry officials have been peppering 60 Minutes producers with letters to try to ensure that their views aren’t ignored. At a minimum, they say, the show should note that the Food and Drug Administration, World Health Organization and European Community all regard MSG as safe. And platoons of public-relations specialists are trying to generate favorable publicity before the show airs.

Indeed, the pre-broadcast ruckus has been so great as to lead the FDA to reconsider its policy on MSG labeling sooner than it would have otherwise. The proposed policy change would blunt any allegation the FDA is letting food companies mask the presence of MSG in food.

Few news enterprises stir greater anxiety among business people than 60 Minutes, CBS’ longest-running, most successful prime-time program. Its impact is resounding, its audience huge. Hewitt and his big-name correspondents have won many Emmy Awards and other honors for distinguished reporting and public service. But they also have attracted plenty of criticism for sometimes taking too strong a stance and practicing ambush journalism.

The food industry has been trying to track every 60 Minutes move. In Los Alamos, N.M., Bradley interviewed an 11-year-old schoolboy who had been the archetypical problem child – hostile, disruptive, extremely hyperactive, according to his parents – before being put on an MSG-free diet. “It was a five-year battle looking for the little boy we once had, and he’s back,” the Los Alamos Monitor quoted his mother as saying, after the 60 Minutes interview. The newspaper said the boy, diagnosed as probably suffering from attention-deficit disorder, told Bradley how much his grades had improved after he stayed away from MSG.

The 60 Minutes team also interviewed Dolores Nick, a 55-year-old suburban Chicago woman, and her 30-year-old daughter, Sandy. Dolores Nick says exposure to MSG leaves her so groggy and “drugged-out” that she has to go to bed. Her daughter, she adds, suffers migraine headaches, sometimes so severe that she requires hospital treatment.

And in Santa Fe, N.M., Bradley interviewed George Schwartz, an anti-MSG physician who wrote a 1988 book called In Bad Taste: The MSG Syndrome. Schwartz, as much as anyone, has made MSG a consumer issue.

The show’s producers also began looking for food-company executives to go on camera. None would agree. That doesn’t surprise the industry’s crisis manager, Nick Nichols, president of Nichols Dezenhall Communications Management Group. The CBS show has “a nightmarish track record on stories involving science and technology,” he says. “The spectacle tends to overwhelm analysis.” What’s more, he adds, 60 Minutes has a history of “rewarding” the viewing public’s extraordinary trust in its reports “by scaring the hell out of them.”

The only scientist to step forward and say what the industry believes – that MSG is not a health threat – was a Washington, D.C., allergist named Fred Atkins, whose academic specialty is adverse reactions to foods. “People said, ‘Why would you do it?’ ” Atkins says. With 10-second sound bites, he concedes, “They can make me look foolish or they can make me look reasonable.”

But Atkins believed that a scientist had to provide an authoritative response. “There may be some individuals with transient mild reactions after ingesting MSG in food,” he says. The common symptoms, sometimes called the Chinese restaurant syndrome, are numbness, tingling or burning in the upper chest, neck and face. “But if the story is that MSG is causing everything from seizures to kids with serious learning disabilities to severe allergic reactions, then viewers are going to be misled,” Atkins asserts.

By early summer, the food industry was fully mobilized to counter the TV show. Its effort was led by the International Food Information Council, a veteran of several food-safety fights, including those over aspartame and food dyes.

At a strategy session at Washington’s Sheraton Carlton Hotel, industry scientists and public relations people viewed a videotape of Schwartz, just to take his measure. The scouting report on the bearded doctor’s TV presence: Very glib. Quite telegenic. Well-rehearsed. Holds up brand-name products.

Impression left on viewers: It’s buyer beware. Next to Schwartz, Atkins seemed like a television tyro.

The industry also prepared a seven-page “communications plan” for blunting the 60 Minutes story. Among other things, it called for gathering intelligence on the assertions of anti-MSG activists who have the ear of 60 Minutes; sounding out other PR tacticians who have taken on networks in similar food-safety controversies; and coordinating efforts to inform opinion leaders.

One objective, according to a copy of the plan obtained by this newspaper, was to create the “best possible climate” of public opinion before the show aired. The International Food Information Council published a reassuring brochure called “What You Should Know About MSG.” In press releases to 2,000 weeklies, the group also trumpeted the news that a European Community scientific panel in June had judged MSG to be safe, even for infants. And thousands of MSG information kits were distributed to food retailers, school-lunch officials and others.

Leaving nothing to chance, the council also tested focus groups to determine the “most effective message points,” and it did a telephone survey to establish a baseline for consumer attitudes about MSG.

After the broadcast, the industry plan called for further focus-group testing and polling, and then striking back with a flurry of press releases to newspapers and video news releases to TV stations. Industry spokesmen would offer to appear on network morning shows.
On Aug. 30, with television’s new season only a fortnight away, the industry went on war footing and started firing shots across the bow. Trade associations sent CBS one letter after another impugning the credibility of Schwartz and other critics and reminding 60 Minutes producer Grace Diekhaus that the FDA puts MSG in the same “generally recognized as safe” category as sugar and salt.

Caught in the middle of this imbroglio was the Food and Drug Administration. The agency briefed Diekhaus on its scientific assessment of MSG and its labeling policies, but then told her that “nothing more would be gained through an on-camera interview.”

In September, 60 Minutes opened its 24th season, intensifying the pressure on the FDA. “Hewitt is pounding on me,” Don McLearn, the agency’s chief spokesman, said at the time. “The problem is, they won’t be fair.” McLearn also complained that the show’s producers wouldn’t sketch out their line of questioning. “That’s ambush journalism,” he said, adding that he wasn’t about to provide “a warm body” that “they can badger.”

Finally, Hewitt laid out the focus of the interview.

“He said the segment will raise three points: Is MSG a problem? Are we working on it? How is MSG labeled?” McLearn says.

Knowing that, FDA officials met late last month to figure out how to handle Ed Bradley’s questions. Commissioner David Kessler discussed his misgivings about the agency’s MSG labeling policy. Currently, food processors have to list MSG as an ingredient only if they add it to products. They don’t have to note its presence in hydrolyzed vegetable protein, a widely used flavor enhancer.

Senior FDA officials ultimately decided to have Deputy Commissioner Michael Taylor sit for an interview with CBS. While being taped, he would break news: The FDA had decided that consumers have a right to know the MSG content of their food, so food processors must declare on labels that hydrolyzed vegetable protein “contains glutamate.” Taylor would emphasize that the policy change wasn’t inspired by health concerns.

The long-awaited interview took place Oct. 1 in the FDA’s Washington office. “We had Mike Taylor pretty well coached,” says McLearn, who had played the role of Bradley in practice. Although the real Bradley “came on strong,” he says, “Mike didn’t get flustered.”
Two days later, 60 Minutes interviewed another food-industry nemesis: John Olney, a professor of psychiatry and neuropathology at Washington University medical school in St. Louis. His position on MSG: “It’s a potential poison, and it’s especially poisonous to the immature nervous system.” He argues that MSG levels in many soups and other foods aren’t safe for infants or children. FDA officials and industry scientists say he’s wrong.

While the industry’s anxiety builds, neither Diekhaus nor Bradley will comment on their roles in the MSG segment. Hewitt expresses great reluctance to discuss a segment before it airs. “I’m telling you a lot of pressure is being brought on us,” he says. “Chances are we will probably air it. If we don’t, it will have nothing to do with Accuracy in Media or the Glutamate Association.”

The Grocery Manufacturers’ Nedelman hopes to pick up a warning before the show airs. The group won’t “wait for them to drop the bomb,” he says. Before that, it intends to contact a dozen important editorial writers and reporters, such as Jane Brody of The New York Times and Daniel Puzo of the Los Angeles Times, and “let them know that 60 Minutes is going to yell fire in a crowded theater,” just as its critics say it did with Alar.

The International Food Information Council is gearing up for video tit for tat with 60 Minutes. If the segment is as alarming as feared, video news releases will be flashed to TV stations nationwide. Overnight letters will go out at once to the news media and others, followed by press releases the following Monday.

Says Nedelman: “It will be like the Democratic response to the president’s address to the nation: Here’s the other side of the story.”


Editorial note. As with all the other promises from the FDA when under pressure to tell the truth about MSG, declaration that manufacturers “…must declare on labels that hydrolyzed vegetable protein “contains glutamate” never happened.

Now, thirty years after the 1991 MSG program was aired, we know things that we didn’t realize before:

  1. It is only manufactured free glutamate as opposed to glutamate found in whole protein that, when eaten, causes brain damage and a host of reactions ranging from skin rash and fibromyalgia to heart irregularities and seizures.

  2. Manufactured free glutamate is always accompanied by unwanted by-products of manufacture, called impurities by industry and medical practitioners.

  3. Glutamate is an excitotoxic amino acid. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a man-made product composed of L-glutamic acid (L-glutamate), sodium, moisture, D-glutamic acid (D-glutamate), pyroglutamic acid, and other impurities (unwanted and unavoidable by-products of the manufacture of L-glutamate). MSG is manufactured in plants throughout the world. In the United States, MSG is produced in Ajinomoto’s factory in Eddyville, Iowa. Its principal ingredient is its excitotoxic, brain damaging, L-glutamate.

    L-glutamate is the L enantiomer of glutamic acid (glutamate), an acidic amino acid which when present in protein or released from protein in a regulated fashion (through routine digestion) is vital for normal body function. It is the principal neurotransmitter in humans, carrying nerve impulses from glutamate stimuli to glutamate receptors throughout the body. Yet, when present outside of protein in amounts that exceed what the healthy human body was designed to accommodate (which can vary widely from person to person), glutamate becomes an excitotoxic neurotransmitter, firing repeatedly, damaging targeted glutamate-receptors and/or causing neuronal and non-neuronal death by over exciting those glutamate receptors until their host cells die.

  4. The research referred to by glutamate industry agents as demonstrating MSG’s safety is flawed to the point of being fraudulent. The most easily understood of their devious experimental methods has been the use of excitotoxic amino acids deceitfully called “placebos” used in double-blind studies.

  5. Prior to 1957 MSG was produced by extracting glutamate from a protein source. This was a slow and costly method. In 1957, Ajinomoto began producing MSG using bacterial fermentation, whereby carefully chosen genetically modified bacteria fed on a nourishing medium, excreted glutamate through their cell walls. With that change, production of MSG skyrocketed, making it possible for a consumer to ingest sufficient (excessive) amounts of this manufactured glutamate during the course of a day to cause the glutamate to become excitotoxic.

It was shortly after this change in production that the first published reports of reactions to MSG appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, the first report of MSG-induced brain damage appeared in the journal Science, obesity rose to epidemic proportions, and the incidence of infertility escalated. MSG-induced brain damage leads to both obesity and infertility.

  1. The so-called scientific bodies that have attested to the safety of MSG have done no research of their own. only reviewing the research of others. Neither did any of them search the literature for relevant research. The studies that they reviewed were given to them by the FDA (whose work suffered from serious conflicts of interest) and/or by agents of the glutamate industry.

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.

An open letter to CBS: Please play it again. It’s already in the can. Ed Bradley did it in November 1991.

It was gone over with a fine-tooth comb by your legal department in 1990 and 1991, and Ajinomoto didn’t sue 60 Minutes after the program aired. Actually, Ajinomoto won’t sue anyone who suggests that monosodium glutamate might be toxic. They keep an extremely low profile and don’t want a lawsuit to shine the light of day on their product. Watch Ed Bradley’s program. You’ll notice there was no one from Ajinomoto speaking about the safety of monosodium glutamate. They did, however, have their man at the FDA, Michael R. Taylor formerly of King and Spaulding and Monsanto represent them wearing his FDA credentials.

Although rated by TV guide as one of the two most watched segments of the 1991 year, 60 Minutes hasn’t replayed it or touched a story that might remotely criticize MSG. It would appear that Don Hewitt caved to industry pressure – could it be explained in any other way? And for neither love nor money can you buy a tape of the program from CBS.

But Don Hewitt is gone. The lie that cigarettes are harmless has been exposed. The toxic chemicals used in production of genetically modified products (GMO’s) are literally on trial. In February, 60 Minutes aired “Did the FDA Ignite the Opioid Epidemic?” The time is right for the toxic effects of monosodium glutamate and the other ingredients that contain Manufactured free Glutamic acid (MfG) to be exposed – and for the conversation to begin anew.

Some things have changed. It is now acknowledged that MfG — the toxic ingredient in monosodium glutamate — is an excitotoxin, killing brain cells and wiping out parts of the endocrine system when passed to the fetus and newborn through the diets of mothers who consume it in quantity in processed foods (which is easy enough to do), as well as through breast milk. There is more excitotoxic MfG in our food supply than there was in 1991, and each year more is added. In addition, the body of medical research on the toxic effects of glutamic acid is growing. A pubmed search done on April 12, 2019, produced 2984 studies of glutamate-related toxicity.

Many of the people interviewed in 1991 are gone. But if you chose to do so, you might still find some, especially the children.

John Olney died of cancer recently, a brilliant scientist and humanitarian, working in his laboratory up to the last. Jack Samuels is gone. He provided information on the toxicity of monosodium glutamate to Roz Karson and Grace Dickhaus of CBS, and to Bruce Ingersol of the Wall Street Journal, from 1990 until the story aired in 1991 – information which they were pleased to confirm. Jack died following a heart attack where medical treatment required that he be given pharmaceuticals that contained manufactured free glutamic acid – which caused him to fibrillate non-stop until he died.

Resources you might fine of interest:

So, play it again please. The timing couldn’t be better.

Respectfully requested,
Adrienne Samuels
Director, Truth in Labeling Campaign

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 isn’t going away, MSG on 60 Minutes

If it seems like you never hear mention of the toxic nature of MSG on any nationally-aired show – cable or network – it’s true! It’s almost as if a gag-order had been issued. In fact, any talk about MSG in the media has been virtually nonexistent since the 1991 CBS 60 Minutes broadcast about the dangers of the flavor enhancer.

Sometime after the 60 Minutes program aired, Nancy Millman, writing for the Chicago Tribune, did an article focusing on the activities of Jack Samuels (co-founder of the Truth in Labeling Campaign) and his fight to have MSG labeled. According to Millman, prior to beginning her work, she had cleared the story with her editor, but the article was never published.

Similarly, the Baltimore Sun accepted and then refused to print an article on MSG by journalist Linda Bonvie, and an editor at the New York Times told Bonvie that she wouldn’t take a story that even mentioned MSG. According to Bonvie, the editor had said she was unwilling to face the pressure and intimidation that would result if she did. And in 1991, Don Hewett of 60 Minutes said, on air, that he had never had so much pressure applied to him by industry as he had prior to the airing of the MSG segment. Although rated by TV guide as one of the two most watched programs of the 1991 year, 60 Minutes has refused to run the piece again. Prior to the 60 Minutes show airing, Ajinomoto pulled out all the stops to kill it. In early 1990, we had become aware that the show was in the works, and over the course of its development had provided information to producers Grace Dickhaus and Roz Karson. In March of 1991, a producer for the CBS show called Ajinomoto with the announcement that they were thinking of doing a segment on their product.

According to the Wall Street Journal a group of trade associations launched one of the largest pre-emptive campaigns in public relations history. The WSJ said that “A crisis-management team specializing in 60 Minutes damage control has been hired to help the industry execute an elaborate game plan to forestall a repeat of the 1989 Alar-on-apples scare.”

We had received a copy of the “International Food Information Council MSG Committee/MSG Coalition COMMUNICATIONS PLAN” from an anonymous source, which detailed IFIC’s plans for scuttling the 60 Minutes segment on MSG, or, failing that, to provide for crisis management. We forwarded IFIC’s plan to the WSJ.

The IFIC, which represents itself as an “independent” organization, sends attractive brochures to dietitians, nutritionists, hospitals, schools, the media, and politicians, proclaiming the safety of monosodium glutamate. IFIC’s paid relationship to the glutamate industry is documented in the 31st edition of the Encyclopedia of Associations.

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.

Call to Action: False claims made on government websites can be removed

There is power in positive thinking and Right Action. The Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN) just reported that because of actions taken, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can no longer claim on its website that vaccines do not cause autism.

What better incentive could we have to flood the FDA with testimony telling why we believe the FDA’s claim that MSG is harmless should be dropped from any and all of their materials.

Call to action: Comment on Citizen Petition FDA-2021-P-0035 to strip MSG of its GRAS (safe) designation.

To comment on this petition:

Go to https://www.regulations.gov and put this docket number FDA-2021-P-0035 in the search box. Click on “Search.”

Click on “Comment now.”

NOTE: If you’re commenting on Tuesday or Thursday an extra step is needed as the site is being updated twice a week. On those days:

Go to https://www.regulations.gov and put this docket number FDA-2021-P-0035 in the search box.

Click on the second link titled Citizen Petition from Adrienne Samuels and you’ll see a blue tab that says “comment now.”

This is a comment from L. “Considering what we know right now, there is no reason for the FDA to label MSG as a GRAS additive. It is a toxic, brain damaging, manmade substance. For the FDA to continue to present it as a benign, GRAS ingredient benefits industry, not consumers. It’s time for the FDA to stop being a PR firm for Big Food and serve the public. This petition is an excellent way to start that process. Please give it the focus and attention it deserves.”

This is an excerpt from a comment from F. “In my case, if I sat down in the evening and consumed a large quantity of barbecue potato chips, nacho chips (two favorite snacks) or other products containing significant amounts of MSG, I would wake up the next morning with very severe vertigo that lasted 7-10 days. I was unable to function or teach my food marketing classes until I discovered that the transderm-scop patch (worn on cruises by people subject to seasickness) provided some relief. The vertigo attacks occurred about once per month. After several visits to ENT physicians who could not explain the problem or find a solution, I decided that the condition may have been caused by a food additive. I used a careful process of elimination and, over the course of several months, determined that the culprit was MSG. I completely removed MSG from my diet, as much as possible, by reading all labels and never consuming any product that contains MSG. When eating away-from-home, I always confirm that the restaurant does not use MSG in foods I purchase. I am happy to report that, as a result, I have now been free from any vertigo attacks for more than nine years.

“I suspect that the incidence of MSG sensitivity is far higher than reported, and that most people suffering the symptoms never identify the cause of their symptoms. Given that MSG is nothing more than a “flavor enhancer” and provides no real functional benefits, I cannot see how any benefits of MSG could possibly outweigh the costs (medical expenses and lost productivity), given the clearly documented sensitivities to MSG. It would be far better for the American consumer to learn to appreciate the real flavors of foods. I am gratified that some enlightened food manufacturers and retailers have been removing MSG from their products.”

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

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. Advertising studies have been rigged to conclude that nothing was found to suggest that MSG is anything other than safe, diverting funding from research that might concluded that MSG is harmful, enlisting the support of celebrities and professionals who vouch for the safety of their excitotoxic – brain damaging – product and keeping any mention of possible MSG-toxicity out of FDA files.

But it’s a new day. And as much as we may disagree about our politics and even what truth is, no one will disagree with the notion that it’s wrong to poison people, most especially our children. And so, through a Citizen Petition addressed to FDA Commissioner Hahn, I have asked the people at the FDA (who have kept the myth of the safety of MSG alive no matter what) to weed out the lies that the FDA is telling at the behest of the glutamate industry and officially stop calling the excitotoxic manufactured glutamic acid and the MSG that contains it generally recognized as safe — GRAS.

To comment on and support that petition, simply go here and then click the blue “comment now” button at the top of the page.

And be sure to share this message with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn friends.

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

The ‘G’ in MSG stands for ‘excitotoxic’

The FDA has been representing the interests of the glutamate industry for over 50 years, literally publishing industry’s propaganda on its official website at www.FDA.gov. They really want you to believe that MSG isn’t even “controversial,” and that it’s “safe” and “natural.”

Here’s a better way to think about it: the “G” in “MSG” stands for the excitotoxic – brain damaging – glutamate that plays a role in obesity and reproductive disorders (infertility) and causes heart irregularities such as atrial fibrillation and tachycardia, asthma, migraine headache, irritable bowel, light-headedness, mood swings, skin rash, seizures and more.

Was the FDA ever a protector of human health?

It is the FDA that makes and enforces food labeling laws, and it is the FDA that determines whether or not MSG, or any other chemical, will be approved for use in food. Thus, the FDA holds the keys to life and death for many Americans, many of whom still believe that it is the welfare of consumers, not the profits of the food and/or drug industries, that concern the FDA. A great deal of industry’s success in keeping excitotoxic amino acids hidden (unlabeled) in processed foods can be attributed to their campaign against identifying toxic substances through labeling. In the 1970s, growing numbers of consumers realized that they reacted with things like asthma, migraine headache or seizures when they consumed something that contained monosodium glutamate (MSG). But it wasn’t until 1988 when George Schwartz, M.D. published “In Bad Taste: the MSG Syndrome,” that consumers began to understand that it was the Manufactured Free Glutamate in MSG that was causing their reactions.

This fact is relevant to the FDA’s role in sustaining Ajinomoto’s push to keep the truth about the toxic effects of their product, MSG, from the public. The FDA’s failure to distinguish between the product called MSG, and the other products that contain MSG’s toxic manufactured free glutamate (MfG) has been used continuously to confuse and deceive consumers. But that’s just a pimple on the face of things that the FDA does for Ajinomoto.

In 1988, consumers were used to referring to their reactions to MfG as “MSG-reactions” even if there was no ingredient called monosodium glutamate in the offending product. And the FDA allowed manufacturers to claim “no MSG” or “no MSG added” to products that contained MfG but not MSG.

The glutamate industry, led by Ajinomoto, understood that if all MfG in all processed food was labeled, consumers would be able to determine whether or not an MfG-containing ingredient or product caused them to have irritable bowel, skin rash, migraine headache, seizures or any other adverse reaction.

Why would that be important? Because if consumers were able to identify the MfG in the things they used and food they consumed, the fact that asthma, dizziness, and/or depression, for example, always followed use of MfG use might become obvious. The glutamate industry wouldn’t like that at all. It might make it difficult to continue selling consumers—or maybe even the medical community—on the idea that MfG is harmless.

The FDA has never dealt with the toxicity of MfG. They’ve only focused on confirming the safety of Ajinomoto’s product, MSG. To that end, the FDA has cooperated with the glutamate industry at every turn. Its cooperation can be traced back to September 1969, when then FDA Commissioner Ley testified before the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Health, presenting evidence from four studies that, he alleged, demonstrated MSG was safe. It was later disclosed that two of those studies were incomplete, and two didn’t even exist.

The big picture


There have never been any meaningful regulations for identifying MSG or the amount of MSG in any product. The FDA’s refusal to identify MSG through labeling is central to the success of the glutamate industry in promoting its toxic product.

The FDA has ignored evidence of monosodium glutamate toxicity.

The first study of MSG toxicity, actually MSG-induced brain damage, was published in 1969. There was a congressional inquiry into the possible danger of using MSG in baby food, which resulted some ten years later in industry “voluntarily” removing MSG from baby food, and replacing it with other sources of MfG. The FDA took no action.

The flawed nature of Ajinomoto’s International Glutamate Technical Committee (IGTC) research was exposed in 1993 when evidence from the files of the FDA that the IGTC used aspartame in their placebos was brought to the attention of the FDA. In that year, FDA Commissioner Kessler was asked to investigate the FDA’s use of badly flawed studies in their determination that monosodium glutamate is safe. The request was ignored. (They do that a lot. Don’t deny. Don’t respond. Just ignore.)

In its 1995 report to the FDA, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) acknowledged that it was inappropriate to use aspartame in placebos used in double-blind studies of the safety of MSG and the FDA did not dispute FASEB’s conclusion. Nonetheless, the FDA still allows the unregulated use of MSG in processed food.

The FDA has ignored the fact that studies presented to it by the IGTC as evidence that MSG was a harmless food additive used MSG-containing ingredients other than monosodium glutamate as well as neurotoxic aspartic acid (found in aspartame) in their placebos. (Don’t deny. Don’t respond. Just ignore.)

The FDA cooperated with Ajinomoto in designing studies from which the industry would claim to have demonstrated that MSG was a safe food additive. Evidence to that effect exists (or existed) in the files of the FDA:A July 13, 1990 letter from IGTC chairman Ebert to Walter Glinsmann, M.D., Associate Director of Clinical Nutrition, Division of Nutrition, FDA, reads, in part “…attached are three [double-blind] protocols for your use…IGTC would be interested in your views, especially on the proposed work by Drs. Kirby and Kjos.”

A January 2, 1991 letter from IGTC chairman Ebert to Fred R. Shank, Ph.D., Director, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, FDA, requested a scientific review session on MSG with FDA scientists. IGTC chairman Ebert elaborated on what the IGTC wanted covered at the meeting, and offered the names of FDA personnel who should attend. “In the past, IGTC has requested meetings with FDA staff for purposes of informal reviews of MSG research. Scientists who have carried out studies on MSG, usually in university laboratories or clinics, have presented their data to agency scientists for review and discussion….If Dr. Donald Kirby, who is currently carrying out research on MSG at the Medical College of Virginia, has sufficient clinical data by the time of an FDA meeting we would propose inviting him also.”

After elaborating on what the IGTC wanted covered at the meeting, the chairman continued: “As FASEB plans a one day Hearing on Free Amino Acids on February 4, 1991, it seems advisable to complete an FDA meeting prior to that date….FDA scientists who have participated in MSG research discussion in the past included among others: Drs. Shank, Hattan and Scheuplein. Others who would be key attendants include Drs. Rulls, Lin and Bailey…Members of the IGTC/TGA Executive Committee also would plan to join the meeting.”A December 9, 1991 FDA Memorandum of Conference notes that “The IGTC requested the meeting to discuss a protocol that they are currently developing for a proposed food allergy study involving MSG. We informed the visitors that we will provide our comments only after they have submitted a written protocol to us with some detailed description of the proposed study.”

A September 4, 1992 FDA Memorandum of Conference reads: “Dr. Kimura gave me a copy of the [IGTC] request (dated 8/20/92) for a meeting with the Commissioner and a copy of the Bob MacLeod’s brief response (dated 9/3/92) to the IGTC. We both agreed that once a description of their research plan (or protocols) is given to us, a meeting will be scheduled for their scientists to discuss with our review staff regarding their research plan aimed to resolve scientific issues surrounding adverse reactions allegedly caused by monosodium glutamate consumed in food.”

On October 23, 1992, the FDA hosted a conference at the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, FDA. Present were Geha (Harvard Medical School), Saxon (UCLA Medical School), Patterson (Northwestern University Medical School), Ebert, (Chairman IGTC), Yoshi-hisa Sugita (IGTC), Takeshi Kimura (IGTC); and Hattan, Tollefson, Glinsmann, Bailey, and Lin of the FDA. Protocols for the Geha, Saxon, Patterson study called for use of aspartame in placebos, as had all other double-blind studies receiving FDA approval.

The FDA has suppressed information pertaining to the toxic potential of MSG.

In 1992, the FASEB study on the safety of amino acids in dietary supplements had warned about the use of MSG in them. That information was never shared with the public.

As early as 1990, the FDA became aware that MSG produced through acid hydrolysis of proteins contains carcinogenic mono and dichloro propanols. That information has never been shared with the public.

MSG produced through acid hydrolysis of proteins contains carcinogenic mono and dichloro propanols. If enzymes were used to produce hydrolyzed proteins, this wouldn’t be the case, but since using enzymes is more costly than using acid, most of the hydrolyzed protein products found on grocers’ shelves contribute to the development of cancer. The FDA has been thinking about sharing that information with the public since 1990.

In 1992, the FDA commissioned FASEB to do an independent review of research on the safety (never toxicity) of monosodium glutamate in food. The FDA has admitted, in reports of adverse reactions on file at the FDA, that headache (they don’t call it migraine headache) has been reported as an adverse reaction by over 43 per cent of the people reporting reactions to monosodium glutamate. With possible rare exception, monosodium glutamate is acknowledged as a migraine headache trigger by every headache clinic in this country.

In 1991, Alfred Scopp published a study entitled “Monosodium glutamate and hydrolyzed vegetable protein induced headache: review and case studies”. But neither Scopp’s study nor the subject of migraine headache are discussed in the August 31,1995 FASEB report.

In FASEB’s “independent” study, questions were posed by the FDA to which FASEB responded. FASEB ignored all others. Panel members suffered from conflicts of interests; failed to consider all data relevant to the safety/toxicity of monosodium glutamate; dismissed, or attempted to dismiss, data that did not fit well with a conclusion that monosodium glutamate is safe. The FDA rejected FASEB’s September, 1994 final draft report (of the allegedly independent investigation); shared the contents of that September, 1994 final draft report with agents of the glutamate industry–but no one else; and made the final FASEB report available to glutamate industry agents–but to no one else–prior to distribution. Requests to FASEB, to the FDA’s Dr. David Hattan, and to Freedom of Information for copies of the report have been ignored.

The FDA has actively promoted the safety of MSG

The FDA has published and distributed material attesting to the safety of monosodium glutamate in the FDA Medical Bulletin and more in the FDA Backgrounder.

The FDA reinforces the misinformation put out by the glutamate industry, distortions of fact like, “The glutamic acid in monosodium glutamate is identical to the glutamic acid in whole protein.”

The FDA tells people that the free glutamic acid in processed food is identical to the free glutamic acid found in unprocessed food and in higher organisms, without reference to the fact that the free glutamic acid in processed food is invariably accompanied by impurities.

The FDA-sponsored investigations into the safety of monosodium glutamate have always been rigged. Material reviewed by FDA reviewers has been limited largely to industry-produced studies, with just enough independent research for investigators to point to and say “we’ve looked at that.” Moreover, the reviewers themselves have had industry affiliations.

When the glutamate industry wasn’t satisfied with the outcome of an FDA investigation, the final report of that investigation would be rewritten. That was obvious of the 1978 FASEB report rewritten and republished in 1980, and in the 1994 FASEB report rewritten and published in 1995.

The FDA has done original research for the benefit of the glutamate industry.

We knew that in all of this, the FDA parrots the words of Ajinomoto’s The Glutamate Association, the IGTC, and whatever other front groups they have established. (Since IGTC Chairman Ebert was exposed for overseeing double-blind studies using excitotoxic aspartic acid (in aspartame) in placebos used in MSG-safety studies, the IGTC is rarely spoken of by Ajinomoto.)

Bits and pieces of FDA/industry collusion

The FDA has allowed “monosodium glutamate” to be given as an illustration of a common safe food:

“It is impracticable to list all substances that are generally recognized as safe for their intended use. However, by way of illustration, the Commissioner regards such common food ingredients as salt, pepper, sugar, vinegar, baking powder, and monosodium glutamate as safe for their intended use.” (CFR 21 582.1)

The FDA has acknowledged that to advertise products as “No MSG,” “No Added MSG,” or “No MSG Added” when they contain ingredients that are sources of free glutamic acid such as hydrolyzed protein, was in direct violation of Section 403(a)(1) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Yet, the FDA has allowed the words “No added MSG” and “No MSG added” to be used, illegally, on labels of foods that contain MSG.

The FDA Adverse Reactions Monitoring System (ARMS) established to record reports of adverse reactions to sulfites, aspartame, and MSG never solicited information on MSG or aspartame. The FDA disbanded the ARMS when the lawsuit against the FDA was settled, and the need to pretend it was interested in the toxic potential of MSG and aspartame lessened. At the time, the statement was made that everyone knew that MSG and aspartame were harmless, and there was no sense in keeping reports of reactions.When legislators receive inquiries or calls for help from constituents, they are forwarded to the FDA which, in turn, assures both legislator and constituent that there is no cause for concern.

On the rare occasion that the FDA acknowledged the question of MSG’s safety, evidence of possible MSG toxicity would be submitted to representatives of the glutamate industry for evaluation, in order to allow them to confirm its safety.

When the FDA/HHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) was petitioned to investigate the charge that the behavior of the FDA was inappropriate, the OIG turned the investigation over to the Office of Research Integrity (ORI), thereby guaranteeing that the petition would be killed. The ORI oversees and directs many Public Health Service research integrity activities on behalf of the Secretary of Health and Human Services, but does not oversee regulatory research integrity activities of the FDA. Therefore, under no circumstances would the ORI have jurisdiction in this matter.

In May, 1992, the Journal of Dental Hygiene cited the FDA’s David Hattan as saying “The FDA’s findings were based on the scientific studies provided by the Glutamate Association. The work has been supported by people with an interest in glutamate: consortiums and manufacturers.” Earlier Hattan had told a toxicology forum in Aspen Colorado that glutamic acid was implicated in a number of disease conditions. According to Hattan, “‘developing data on exogenous and endogenous excitogens or excitotoxins has been the primary spur to the Food and Drug Administration’s review of monosodium glutamate.” Hattan was central to the debate on the safety/toxicity of MSG, being Deputy Director for the Division of Toxicological Review and Evaluation, at the FDA, and the FDA liaison to FASEB relative to the 1995 FASEB analysis of adverse reactions to monosodium glutamate (MSG). Yet there is no evidence that Hattan raised any question about the propriety of the research being submitted to the FDA by the IGTC as evidence that MSG is safe.

Minutes of FDA meetings with consumers were changed when it served the purposes of the glutamate industry.

Medical evaluations of MSG-sensitive people were altered by the FDA.

In 1992 the FDA chose Ajinomoto’s International Glutamate Technical Committee (IGTC) Chairman Andrew G. Ebert and Kristin McNutt another IGTC operative, to serve as consumer advocates on its Food Advisory Committee.

The FDA refused to be discovered when sued over its failure to require identification of MSG through labeling. When challenged in a suit over full and clear labeling of MSG, the Court considered nothing but the Administrative Record presented by the FDA. Studies that demonstrated the MSG had toxic potential were not allowed as evidence because they were not submitted to the Court by the FDA as part of its Administrative Record. The Administrative record was made up of material that the FDA needed in order to win its case, plus a smattering of material from the opposition that had no bite to it, but to which the FDA could point and say, “we looked at that.”

When FDA Dockets Management copied material that the Truth in Labeling Campaign requested they made extra copies, which we suspected were being sent to those who wanted to know what we were up to.

The FDA approves the use of glutamate-blocking pharmaceuticals while encouraging industry to pour processed free glutamate into processed food.

The FDA refuses to provide consumers with lists of ingredients that contain MfG.

The FDA allows the term “natural” to be used in reference to excitatory amino acids.

The FDA allows the glutamate industry to create and use sources of MfG that contain carcinogenic mono and dichloro propanols and heterocyclic amines.

Confirmation of FDA/industry cooperation will be found in the files of the FDA.

A look at the future

It had been suggested that with the Obama administration, care might be taken to turn the FDA back to its original charge of guaranteeing the safety of both food and drugs. But with the appointment of Michael R. Taylor, former partner in the law firm of King & Spalding, and former vice president for public policy of Monsanto Company, to Obama’s transition team and from there to the post of FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods, all hope for a return to concern for consumers disappeared. Michael Taylor is a cousin (maybe second cousin) of Tipper Gore, the wife or former wife of Al Gore, vice president under President William Clinton. The work experience he brings to his most recent job at the FDA comes from years of dedicated service to Monsanto.

Michael Taylor is the man from President Clinton’s FDA who oversaw FDA approval of rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), and thereby subjected citizens of this country, and many others, to increased risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancer. rBGH is a genetically engineered, potent variant of the natural growth hormone produced by cows. Its use forces cows to increase their milk production by about 10%, makes cows sick, and facilitates the production of milk that’s chemically and nutritionally different than natural milk.

Michael Taylor has additional glutamate industry credits. He was instrumental in securing FDA approval of aspartame.

MSG-sensitive people may remember Michael Taylor from his November 3, 1991 performance on “60 Minutes,” where he represented the interests of the FDA and Ajinomoto (close friend of Monsanto) by answering Mike Wallace’s questions. All Taylor would say was that the FDA was looking into labeling. The FDA doesn’t even pretend to do that anymore.

On January 14, 2010, Lyndsey Layton wrote an article on Michael Taylor for the Washington Post. It was an excellent article, covering every aspect of his professional career, and included the following information: “Taylor is a familiar figure at the FDA. He began his career as a staff attorney at the agency in 1976. Then he worked for a decade at King & Spaulding, which represented Monsanto Corp., the agribusiness giant that developed genetically engineered corn, soybeans and bovine growth hormone.

“He returned to the FDA in 1991 as deputy commissioner for policy and pushed through requirements that producers of seafood and juices adopt measures to prevent bacterial contamination. During the same period, the FDA approved Monsanto’s bovine growth hormone, and Taylor was partly responsible for a controversial policy that said milk from BGHtreated cows did not have to be labeled as such.

“In 1994, Taylor went to the U.S. Agriculture Department to run its food safety program. He required meat and poultry producers to take measures to prevent bacterial contamination, despite strong opposition from those industries. Observers expect Taylor to impose those same kinds of preventive controls on all the foods regulated by the FDA.

“After the USDA, Taylor went to work for Monsanto as a vice president for public policy. He moved on to a think tank and then a teaching stint at George Washington University.”

“He is the quintessential revolving door,’ said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. Taylor’s support for BGH and Monsanto’s other genetically modified products at the FDA was ‘questionable,’ she said. ‘On the other hand, when he went to USDA, what he did there was absolutely heroic. He’s been very strong on food safety.”

You might notice that the measures Michael Taylor took at the USDA to promote food safety didn’t negatively impact Monsanto. Similarly, nothing acted on by Taylor as FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods impacted Monsanto negatively. In cases other than those where the negative role of big business is so gross as to be undeniable, regulation will be aimed at small, generally independent, businesses.

At the FDA, protecting the American public from toxic additives intentionally added to processed food won’t be considered. Enforcing regulations prohibiting deceptive and misleading labeling, such as claims that there’s no MSG added to products that contain it, is something that will never happen.

The FDA holds incredible power. It is considered an expert in the areas of food, drug, and cosmetic safety by all branches of government; so in any argument over matters of science, the word of the FDA will, with rare exception, be the final word. In addition, the files of the FDA are privileged. Under the provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act, the FDA need disclose to the public, or the Courts, only that information which is part of the Administrative Record for the matter in question; and it is the FDA that determines what the Administrative record for any question shall be.

It doesn’t matter who is US president, or even FDA Director. The industry rule of the FDA is expressed in every agent. It’s a secure job as long as you don’t disturb either food or drug industry giants. Some look forward to taking a pension after 20 years of service and moving through the revolving door into industry – and whistle-blowers are punished.

The FDA is “a lap dog, not a watch dog.” And neither the president nor the Congress ever walks the dog.

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

Monosodium glutamate no longer GRAS?

On November 15, 2011, Truth in Labeling co-founder Jack Samuels suffered a massive heart attack. He died on January 15, 2012 from heart damage exacerbated by complications caused by MSG — MSG in the electrode tabs applied to his skin; MSG in the dextrose solution used to deliver the drugs that would crystallize in the non-MSG Ringer’s solution and MSG in the starch and cornstarch components of the medications given to him when the IVs were withdrawn.

Jack Samuels

Had the FDA not lied about the toxic potential of MSG, had the medical community not believed them, had the MSG in the solutions and meds been identified on product inserts, Jack might be alive today. Had Jack not spent half of the last quarter of his life fibrillating following ingestion of MSG hidden in food, he might not have had the heart attack in the first place.

On January 4, 2021, I filed a Citizen Petition requesting that the FDA discontinue representing the interests of those who manufacture monosodium glutamate (MSG) – that the public be told the truth about the toxicity of MSG and its excitotoxic, brain damaging L-glutamic acid. FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D. has been asked to revoke the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status of MSG and L-glutamic acid for any use in human food.

Copies of the Petition from the FDA are available here. (To read or comment, simply insert the petition docket number FDA-2021-P-0035 in the space provided and use the “comment now” button). The petition and related material are also available at the webpage of the Truth in Labeling Campaign.

The petition contains a Statement of Grounds providing evidence of the need for revoking the GRAS status of MSG and L-glutamic acid for use in human food.

Details pertaining to the toxic effects of MSG, FDA/industry liaison, industry protocols used for production of negative results, and suppression of information can be accessed at these respective links.

If you have questions or comments other than those for the FDA please email me at questionsaboutmsg@gmail.com

But of greatest importance, please tell the FDA that MSG should be stripped of its GRAS status, and search out others to do the same, by commenting to the FDA on the Citizen Petition: https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=FDA-2021-P-0035

Thank you for caring.

Adrienne Samuels

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

Evidence of MSG toxicity

There are three lines of evidence pointing to the toxic potential of monosodium glutamate

I. The first study to address the possibility that glutamate from exogenous sources (eating for example) might cause brain damage followed by obesity and reproductive dysfunction was published in 1969. At the time, researchers were administering glutamate to laboratory animals subcutaneously using Accent brand MSG because it had been observed that MSG was as effective for inflicting brain damage as more expensive pharmaceutical grade L-glutamate (1).

In the decade that followed, research confirmed that glutamate induces hypothalamic damage when given to immature animals after either subcutaneous or oral doses (2).

II. In the 1980s, researchers focused on identifying and understanding abnormalities associated with glutamate, often for the purpose of finding drugs that would mitigate glutamate’s adverse effects. Researchers had found that glutamate was an excitotoxic amino acid. When consumed in controlled quantities, it is essential to normal body function as neurotransmitters and building blocks of protein. But when accumulated in interstitial tissue in quantities greater than needed for normal body function (in excess) it becomes excitotoxic, firing repeatedly and killing brain cells.

It is well documented that L-glutamate is implicated in kidney and liver disorders, neurodegenerative disease, and more. By 1980, glutamate-associated disorders such as headaches, asthma, diabetes, muscle pain, atrial fibrillation, ischemia, trauma, seizures, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, depression, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), epilepsy, addiction, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), frontotemporal dementia and autism were on the rise, and evidence of the toxic effects of glutamate were generally accepted by the scientific community. A November 15, 2020 search of the National Library of Medicine using PubMed.gov returned 3872 citations for “glutamate-induced.”

By and large, the glutamate in question here was, and still is, glutamate from endogenous sources (glutamate originating within the body). The possible toxicity of glutamate from exogenous sources (sources that originate outside of the body) such as glutamate-containing flavor enhancers or other foods, has generally not been considered. Only Olney and a few others have suggested that ingestion of free glutamate might play a role in producing the excess amounts of glutamate needed for endogenous glutamate to become excitotoxic.

III. The third line of evidence should be studies of the effects of eating MSG, but they are virtually non-existent. Studies of glutamate found in the human body are largely funded by pharmaceutical companies interested in developing drugs with which to fight the effects of glutamate on neurodegenerative disease, obesity, and reproductive disorders for example. Those in the glutamate industry, who know full well that the glutamate in MSG is toxic, are not interested in research on the possible toxicity of ingested MSG. And it would appear that by monetarily rewarding certain activities and discouraging others, researchers are not encouraged to find alternative funding sources to pursue research on the possible toxicity of MSG. Instead, the third line of evidence comes from badly flawed studies produced by the producer of MSG to convince the public that MSG is a harmless food additive. Studies that are flawed to the point of being fraudulent. Thus the third line of evidence of MSG toxicity lies in the flawed studies turned out by glutamate-industry agents in their attempts to deceive the public into believing that MSG is “safe.”

It was possibly to counter data that first demonstrated that L-glutamate and MSG cause brain damage, that researchers pretended to replicate animal toxicity studies but did not do so. But glutamate-industry agents made no attempt to examine MSG-induced brain damage in humans. Rather, in the 1980s human studies of adverse reactions as opposed to brain damage were offered to the FDA as evidence that MSG was a harmless food additive. These weren’t alleged replications like the brain-damage studies were, but were creatively designed, each apparently calculated to produce negative results (i.e., no harm done by MSG). Negative results were ensured when researchers considered the effects of glutamate on irrelevant variables, i.e., variables such as blood pressure and weight loss that have never been shown to be associated with glutamate-induced toxicity. Or if females exhibited MSG-induced reproductive disorders and males did not, males would be studied. A variation used was to study the effects of ingestion of glutamate on plasma glutamate levels. Elevated plasma glutamate is associated with production of brain lesions but has never been shown to be relevant to glutamate-induced adverse reactions. The logical fallacy in these studies comes when it is concluded that finding nothing while studying irrelevant variables proves that glutamate is safe.

Negative results were also reliably produced by a series of double-blind studies conducted by a variety of researchers from various universities and medical schools who were given study protocols that would guarantee negative results, all supervised by Andrew G. Ebert, Ph.D., Ajinomoto’s agent in charge of research at the time (without the involvement of Ajinomoto being disclosed). Although these studies had common elements, no two studies were identical. There was, however, one feature shared by all – use of placebos that contained excitotoxic amino acids that would trigger reactions identical to those caused by the MSG test material. According to a letter from Ebert to Sue Ann Anderson, Senior Staff Scientist with the Life Sciences Research Office at FASEB, this practice began in 1978 (3).

In a double-blind study, test material is given to a subject on one occasion, and on another occasion the subject is given a placebo. The placebo, if it’s a true placebo, looks, tastes and smells like the test material, but it will not cause a reaction. If the subject reacts to the inert placebo, the researchers could conclude that the subject is not reacting to the test material, but is responding to the thought of consuming MSG. In other words, the subject would be portrayed as some kind of nut case who might react to anything, and reactions to MSG test material would be discounted.

To make sure that it appeared to be appropriate for researchers to conclude that MSG is harmless, glutamate-industry researchers guaranteed that subjects would react to placebos by using aspartame in their placebos, for the aspartic acid in aspartame and the glutamic acid in MSG cause virtually identical reactions as well as identical brain damage (4,5).

Having set that up, glutamate-industry researchers (and those who quote them) will say “These people aren’t sensitive to MSG, they reacted to the ‘placebo’ too” (6).

Conclusions drawn from these industry-sponsored studies were based on negative results. The inferential statistics used ask the question of whether a difference between two groups of subjects or two sets of measurements could have occurred by chance. If statistical analysis determines that observed differences rarely would have occurred by chance, an investigator would describe those differences as statistically significant and would specify the probability with which differences of that magnitude would be expected to be reproduced if the experiment were replicated at another time. In statistical parlance, the investigator had tested the hypothesis that there would be no difference between two groups — the null hypothesis — and had rejected that hypothesis when he found that there was indeed a significant difference. The statistical model on which these statistics are based allows the investigator to conclude that it is highly likely — the probability used usually being 95 percent or 99 percent — that differences found were not due to chance. The statistical model does not allow the investigator to conclude that no difference exists between the two groups when a statistically significant difference is not found. The industry-sponsored studies invariably violated the assumptions of the statistics used.

There is a certain sameness to these studies. They are generally methodologically inadequate, statistically unsound, and/or irrelevant to the safety/toxicity of MSG.

Researchers have gone so far as to use aspartame, which contains excitotoxic aspartic acid, and/or excitotoxic manufactured free glutamate (MfG) in placebos to cause subjects to respond to placebos just as they would respond to monosodium glutamate test material (7).


  1. Olney JW. Brain lesions, obesity, and other disturbances in mice treated with monosodium glutamate. Science. 1969;164(880):719-721. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/5778021/
  2. Studies demonstrating both glutamate and MSG-induced brain damage https://www.truthinlabeling.org/Data%20from%20the%201960s%20and%201970s%20demonstrate_2.html
  3. The Ebert/Anderson letter: Andrew Ebert’s letter to FASEB acknowledging that from 1978 forward, placebos used in International Glutamate Technical Committee (IGTC) studies of the safety of monosodium glutamate were laced with aspartame. https://www.truthinlabeling.org/assets/ebert_letter.pdf
  4. FDA Adverse Reactions Monitoring System (ARMS) – Collected Reports of Adverse reactions to monosodium glutamate. https://www.truthinlabeling.org/assets/arms_msg.pdf
  5. FDA Adverse Reactions Monitoring System (ARMS) – Collected Reports of Adverse reactions to Aspartame. https://www.truthinlabeling.org/assets/arms_aspartame.pdf
  6. Studies demonstrating both glutamate and MSG-induced brain damage https://www.truthinlabeling.org/Data%20from%20the%201960s%20and%201970s%20demonstrate_2.html
  7. Discussion of glutamate-industry-study protocols https://www.truthinlabeling.org/flawed.html

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

MSG too dangerous for use as food additive, say researchers outside the U.S.

You won’t find researchers in the United States publishing articles even suggesting that monosodium glutamate (MSG) might induce toxicity. And you won’t hear about research telling of MSG toxicity in most U.S. media outlets, either. The following is from a study out of Turkey. We found it at PubMed.gov.

“In this study, the toxic effects of monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is the sodium salt of glutamic acid and used as a flavor-enhancing additive in foods, and the protective role of cape gooseberry (Physalis peruviana L.) extract against these effects were investigated using Allium cepa L. test material with physiological, cytogenetic, and biochemical parameters. In the study, physiological changes were evaluated by determining root length, weight gain, and rooting percentage; genetic changes were evaluated by chromosomal abnormalities, micronucleus (MN) formation, mitotic index ratio (MI), and DNA damage. Oxidative stress was evaluated by determining the levels of malondialdehyde (MDA), glutathione (GSH), superoxide dismutase (SOD), and catalase (CAT). Further, the relationships between oxidative stress and other parameters in the study were investigated. The antimutagenic effect of P. peruviana L. extract was evaluated as inhibition caused by MSG-induced chromosomal abnormalities (CAs) and DNA damage. In the study, six groups, including one control and five applications, were formed. The bulbs of Allium cepa L. in the control group were treated with tap water; the bulbs in the administration groups treated with 1000 mg/L MSG, 125 mg/L, and 250 mg/L concentrations of P. peruviana L. extract and MSG (1000 mg/L) in combination with P. peruviana L. extracts (125 mg/L and 250 mg/L) for 72 h. At the end of the application, compared to the control group, MSG application caused decreases in rooting percentage, weight gain, root length and MI, increases in frequencies of MN formation, chromosomal abnormalities, and DNA damage. In the biochemical analysis, it was determined that there were increases in MDA, SOD, and CAT levels and a decrease in GSH level. P. peruviana L. extract ameliorated MSG toxicity by showing improvement in all these parameters depending on the application concentration. As a result, considering the toxic effects of MSG, it has been understood that the use as a food additive should be abandoned and the use of P. peruviana L. in addition to daily nutrition has been found to be a good antioxidant nutrient in reducing the effects of exposed toxic substances.”

The Turkish researchers aren’t the only ones – others have warned of MSG toxicity:

Hermanussen: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14513871, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16132059/;
Stover: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10548216/;
Nakanishi: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18178378/;
Chakraborty: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30273089/;
Hernández, Bautista: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30597304/;
Sharma: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26493866/;
Ataseven: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26929995/;
Kayode: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31979139/;
Hajihasani: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32489556/;
Dixit: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24188378/;
Onaolapo: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27312658/;
Niaz: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5938543/

With the exception of the close to 50 year’s work of Olney, and the exception, Dose dependent toxicity of glutamic acid: A review (written by someone who does not depend on government or industry funding), studies on the subject of MSG published in the U.S. are rigged by glutamate-industry interests to come up with negative results, i.e., no reactions found following ingestion of MSG. We’ve written about this previously. Often subtle in their use of devious methodology, one easy to understand tactic is the use of excitotoxic – brain damaging –aspartic acid (found in aspartame) in what researchers called “placebos” used in double-blind studies – making these placebos guaranteed to cause the same reactions as those caused by MSG.

To cite the article above from Turkey:
Acar, A. Ameliorative effects of cape gooseberry (Physalis peruviana L.) against monosodium glutamate (MSG)–induced toxicity: genetic and biochemical approach. Environ Sci Pollut Res (2021) https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-020-11800-1.

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