Who are the ‘Glutes’?

For years, the Truth in Labeling Campaign has been calling them the “Glutes,” a name that many now recognize as being those who make money selling their poisons hidden in food. We gave them a name because we want you to know them and start talking about them, and it’s hard to talk about someone or something if it doesn’t have a name.

The founder and chief operating officer of this loosely knit operation is Ajinomoto, the world’s largest producer of monosodium glutamate. Ajinomoto designs and bankrolls its research, bragging of the millions it’s spending on public relations to “clear MSG’s bad name.” Their goal is to counter the fact that every day more and more people are suffering reactions to MSG and other flavor enhancers that contain MSG’s toxic manufactured free glutamate (MfG) by plastering the world with propaganda that MSG has gotten a bad rap.

Without the researchers who execute their double-blind studies using excitotoxic, brain damaging placebos, without the food technologists who incorporate MfG into thousands of processed foods, without the manufacturers that use MSG in their products so they can skimp on quality — aided by the grocery outlets that sell their products — and without the “public servants” at the FDA who for 50 years have turned their backs on research that clearly demonstrates MSG has toxic potential while endorsing the out and out lie that MSG is safe for use in food, MSG would have long ago been banned. And it can be done. As recently as 2018 the FDA acted to no longer allow the use of seven flavoring substances and flavor enhancers deemed dangerous.

Those are the Glutes: the people who work to keep MSG flowing without mentioning that they work for the producer of MSG when signing off on their work.

‘Smartphone’ labeling of genetically modified foods ruled unlawful!

In a stunning victory against the USDA’s sneaky approach to the labeling of genetically modified foods, a U.S. district court in California has ruled that labeling such foods with a QR code is “unlawful,” and additional disclosure options must be added.

The case, filed by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) in 2020, was preceded by a two-decade effort by CFS to achieve labeling in the United States that clearly informs consumers as to the presence of genetically modified foods and ingredients – something already required in over 60 countries around the world.

The QR code, which must be read with a device (such as a smartphone) was the culmination of years of devious proposals on how to best confuse shoppers as to the presence of GMO’s in the supermarket. In 2018 the USDA attempted to push a smiley face icon or one with the letters “BE” coming out of the sun.

Alan Lewis, VP of Advocacy & Governmental Affairs for Natural Grocers, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit calls the victory a “win for the American family” who can now “make fully informed shopping decisions” without using “detective work to understand what food labels are hiding.”

For more on the case and decision, read this article at Moms Across America, a true grassroots organization that has been in the forefront of fighting for meaningful labeling laws. Moms Founder Zen Honeycutt says this about the court ruling: “Holy Mackerel and HALLELUYAH!”

The obesity crisis. How it started. Why it continues.

Have you ever wondered how the obesity crisis began and why it continues to grow? 

The Perfect Poison tells it all.  The Perfect Poison tells how free glutamic acid (an excitotoxic amino acid found in flavor-enhancers) is passed by pregnant women to their fetuses where it causes damage to the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus leaving the child with no way to control appetite or satiety.

The paperback and Kindle editions are available right here!

To Your Health,

Adrienne Samuels, Ph.D.
Truth in Labeling Campaign
Chicago, Illinois   USA


Industry’s FDA

It’s no secret that the FDA represents the interests of Big Food and Big Pharma – not consumers. Here is a small example of its allegiance to large corporations that we hadn’t noticed before. Unfortunately, many people still believe that if the FDA says something it must be true.

The following comes from the FDA page called “Questions and Answers on Monosodium glutamate (MSG)” found here: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/questions-and-answers-monosodium-glutamate-msg accessed on 7/22/2020.

What is MSG?

The FDA says that monosodium glutamate (MSG) is the sodium salt of the common amino acid glutamic acid. Glutamic acid is naturally present in our bodies, and in many foods and food additives.

How is it made?

The FDA says that MSG occurs naturally in many foods, such as tomatoes and cheese. People around the world have eaten glutamate-rich foods throughout history. For example, a historical dish in the Asian community is a glutamate-rich seaweed broth. In 1908, a Japanese professor named Kikunae Ikeda was able to extract glutamate from this broth and determined that glutamate provided the savory taste to the soup. Professor Ikeda then filed a patent to produce MSG and commercial production started the following year.

What is MSG?

Mono (single) sodium glutamate in science-speak is glutamate tied to a sodium ion, just as monopotassium glutamate would be glutamate tied to a potassium ion. That’s the makeup of the mono sodium glutamate occurring naturally in our bodies. (Glutamate is rarely found “free,” but is ordinarily tied to an ion such as sodium or potassium.)

The monosodium glutamate that Ajinomoto is selling is made up of manufactured glutamate, the impurities that invariable accompany manufactured glutamate, and sodium.

How is it made?

MSG doesn’t occur naturally anywhere — it’s made – manufactured! The monosodium glutamate that Ajinomoto is selling is a product made in Ajinomoto’s plant in Eddyville Iowa where glutamate is produced by genetically modified bacteria that secrete glutamate through their cell walls, which is then mixed with sodium. (The process for manufacturing MSG has been patented, and as the process is improved over time new patents are awarded.)

Want to learn more about how the FDA cooperates with industry? You’ll find it in our just-out book, The Perfect Poison (available here), on the webpages of the Truth in Labeling Campaign, on Pinterest, in The toxicity/safety of processed free glutamic acid (MSG): A study in suppression of information, and in countless books such as White Wash by Carey Gillam, and Eating May Be Hazardous To Your Health – The Case Against Food Additives by J. Verrett and J. Carper.

‘Likely culprit’ in celiac disease hidden in processed foods

Why is Ajinomoto trying so hard to keep transglutaminase unlabeled?

Over the past few decades celiac disease (CD) has morphed into a “major public health problem.” Along with it, other autoimmune conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and psoriasis, are also topping the charts as very common disorders with dozens of heavily advertised drugs created to treat them.

If you ask why, the knee-jerk response is typically that better testing has uncovered all these otherwise undisclosed conditions. But does that really explain things? And it certainly doesn’t take into consideration what experts refer to as large numbers of people with undiagnosed autoimmune diseases, especially CD.

Back in 2015 two researchers with expertise in metabolic diseases, Aaron Lerner, a professor at Tel Aviv University, and Torsten Matthias, affiliated with the AESKU.KIPP Institute in Germany, first sounded the alarm on a largely unknown, widely used food additive – an enzyme called transglutaminase (TG). At that time, they proposed a “hypothesis” linking TG used in food processing to celiac and other autoimmune diseases. Four years later, however, the pair stated that further research and observations have closed the “gaps” in our understanding of how TG is an “inducer of celiac disease.”   

Big Food’s favorite find to ‘glue’ things together

Transglutaminase, a.k.a. “meat glue,” is the darling of Big Food for lots of reasons: it can glue together scraps of fish, chicken and meat into whole-looking cuts (often called “Frankenmeats”); extend the shelf life of processed foods (even pasta); improve “texture,” especially in low-salt, low-fat products; make breads and pastries (particularly gluten-free ones) rise better, and, as one manufacturer puts it, allow for use of things that would ordinarily be tossed out — unappetizing leftovers and scraps of food that would “otherwise be considered waste ingredients, creating an added-value product.”

But more than just turning “waste ingredients” into new food products, there are a host of other reasons why you should do your best to steer clear of meat glue.

‘Tight junction dysfunction’

The 2015 research published by Lerner and Matthias detailed how certain food additives may be behind the steady rise of autoimmune diseases due to something called “tight junction dysfunctions,” which can set the stage for a wide variety of serious ailments, calling out transglutaminase as one of the commonly used food additives that can enhance “intestinal junction leakage.”

A subsequent study in 2019 recognized transglutaminase as a “likely culprit” in celiac disease.

In 2020, Lerner and Matthias published yet another paper on transglutaminase and celiac disease, calling it a “potential public health concern” and saying that they hope their review will “encourage clinical, scientific and regulatory debates on (its) safety to protect the public.”

Despite all the warnings and additional research, use of the enzyme is booming, and all its food uses are now considered GRAS (generally recognized as safe) by the FDA.

TG and MSG

The similarities between MSG and transglutaminase are quite noteworthy. Not only is the enzyme manufactured in great quantities by Ajinomoto (as is MSG) but the way TG is promoted by the company is remarkably similar to its long-running propaganda campaign claiming that MSG is a safe ingredient.

For example, Ajinomoto states on its websites and elsewhere that both MSG and TG are “found in food naturally,” are “safe,” used in many countries and considered GRAS in the U.S. by the FDA. And just as MSG supposedly in no way causes serious reactions, the company says that TG in no way causes celiac disease – in fact, under some circumstances the TG added to food can actually help CD patients, Ajinomoto says.

While transglutaminase is found naturally in the human body (as is glutamate), there is a significant difference between microbial TG (the manufactured additive) and “our own transglutaminase” says Lerner.  (Just as there is a major difference between manufactured MSG and the glutamate in your body).

That’s because the tissue TG produced in the body “has a different structure (from) the microbial sort, which allows its activity to be tightly controlled. Microbial transglutaminase itself could also increase intestinal permeability,” he says, “by directly modifying proteins that hold together the intestinal barrier.”

The FDA has “no questions”

While once the FDA pretended to look into the safety of a product before granting it GRAS status, not even that is done any more.  Now a company simply turns in a statement that a product should be referred to as GRAS, and it’s done.

Starting in 1998 Ajinomoto filed four notices of “self-determined” GRAS status for TG with the FDA. The first was to use TG in seafood. In 1999 they sent in more intended uses for hard and soft cheeses, yogurt, and “vegetable protein dishes/veggie burgers/meat substitutes.” In 2000 Ajinomoto sent another notice to the FDA regarding using transglutaminase in pasta, bread, pastries, ready-to-eat cereal, pizza dough and “grain mixtures.”

And in 2002, Ajinomoto asked that anything else it might have previously overlooked, referred to as “use in food in general,” be given GRAS status. None of these GRAS notices elicited any objections from the FDA.  Nothing that Big Food asks for is even questioned any more.

Included in the 2001 “everything else” notification from Ajinomoto were some details of a 30-day toxicity study using beagles. Despite findings that included dogs that had developed a pituitary gland cyst, discoloration of the lungs, an enlarged uterus and “significantly” lower prostate weights, all that was considered “incidental and unrelated” to TG. Why they bothered to include a study that shows that their product causes harm to the animals studied can only be understood if you know how Ajinomoto operates.  Having done a study, they can later refer to the study that they did as though it proved that their product was “safe,” knowing that no one will challenge them. Such claims have great propaganda value.

The FDA had “no questions.”

Transglutaminase, here, there and everywhere

Lerner and Matthias have been warning for years about TG hidden in processed foods, saying it’s “unlabeled and hidden from public knowledge.” As we mentioned in another blog on TG several weeks ago, aside from “formed” meat products sold in supermarkets in the U.S. where the enzyme must be called out on the ingredient statement, TG can easily go undercover. 

And Ajinomoto has even added its own tips to help food manufacturers avoid labeling by providing an explanation of how TG is just a “processing aid,” as well as making available a letter authored by a law firm in Germany stating that aside from use in “formed” meat or fish, transglutaminase is “no ingredient” and as such in the EU does not have to be included on a food label. In fact, the lawyers go so far as to state that if a substance (such as TG) is “without any function in the finished product,” listing it on the ingredient label can “mislead the consumer.”

The FDA told us that if TG is used as a “processing aid” it’s considered an “incidental additive” and is “exempted from ingredient labeling.”

Even organic products aren’t safe from TG, as TG is considered A-OK to use it in organic foods, falling under the “allowed” generic category of “enzymes” on the USDA “National list of allowed and prohibited substances” in organic food and farming.

Perhaps the most devious use of this enzyme is to improve the appearance of gluten-free bakery products. Manufactured, microbial transglutaminase “functionally imitates” natural-tissue TG, which is known to be an autoantigen (a “self” antigen, reacting to something produced by the body that provokes an immune response) in those who suffer from celiac disease.  

Steering clear of transglutaminase

The TG story could very well be called a case against processed foods, as the only sure-fire way to avoid this gut-wrenching enzyme is to make/cook all your food from scratch. That being a very unlikely prospect these days, the next best thing is to avoid the following:

  • Low-fat and low-salt products, especially dairy and dairy substitutes;
  • Chicken nuggets, along with any other “formed” meat products;
  • Expensive cuts of meat being sold much cheaper than they should be (that especially is true for restaurants);
  • Sushi from unreliable sources, formed fish sticks and balls;
  • Veggie and tofu burgers; and
  • Cheaply produced pasta (TG is said to help when using “damaged wheat flour”).

When asked what he would consider to be an important take-away regarding transglutaminase, Professor Lerner told us that it would be for the FDA to “reconsider the classification of (manufactured) TG as GRAS.”

Even the New Yorker parrots the propaganda of the glutamate industry’s pernicious PR campaign with no regrets

Letter sent to New Yorker editor David Remnick. He has yet to respond. 

David Remnick
The New Yorker
Conde Nast
1 World Trade Center
New York, NY 10007

Dear Mr. Remnick,

I am writing to you personally, rather than sending this as a standard letter to the editor, to express my extreme indignation at your magazine’s having spread a blatantly false, misleading and, to a good many people, hazardous piece of industry-generated propaganda under the guise of a restaurant review.

The article to which I’m referring, which appeared both online and in your June 27 issue (and which has just been brought to my attention, or I would have written you sooner) is headlined in the online edition, “AT BONNIE’S MSG IS WIELDED WITH NUANCED ARTISTRY.” The author, Hannah Goldfield, is not only listed as the New Yorker’s food critic but was apparently a former fact-checker for your magazine –which is all the more reason why the outright falsehoods it contains are ones I find so outrageous, being the co-founder and director of the Truth in Labeling Campaign and author of a just-released book titled The Perfect Poison (which details many of my comments here).  

To cut to the chase, what Ms. Goldman states at the beginning of this “review”—that “the claim that monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is inherently unhealthy has been thoroughly debunked” is an out-and-out lie—one originating in a disinformation campaign spearheaded by Ajinomoto, a major manufacturer of MSG, and deliberately disseminated using cooperative media outlets to convince people that the negative things they’ve heard about the health effects of the flavor enhancer are baseless rumors.

But it’s not the only falsehood in which Ms. Goldman engages.  She also describes MSG as “a salt that’s extracted from fermented crops such as sugarcane and corn” and that MSG “occurs naturally in foods including tomatoes and Parmesan cheese” and furthermore, as being “as harmful as table salt, maybe even less so.”

In reality, there is nothing “natural” about this additive. Monosodium Glutamate is always manufactured. The “found in nature” line is nothing more than spin lifted straight out of the literature of the Glutamate Association. Unlike the bound glutamic acid that occurs in commodities such as tomatoes and Parmesan cheese, as well as meat, grains and vegetables, MSG is comprised of manufactured free glutamate most often produced by using genetically engineered bacteria that secrete glutamate through its cell walls. Manufactured free glutamate will always contain impurities that industry has been unable to remove. MSG does not occur naturally in anything.

While some people might not notice an immediate reaction to ingesting this manufactured flavor enhancer, for others, the effects can be disastrous, resulting in symptoms that can be mistaken for Alzheimer’s or can send someone to the ER. Even the American Heart Association acknowledges it can be a trigger of atrial fibrillation, or AFib.

Another serious consequence of MSG consumption is the neurological damage it can do to children whose blood-brain barriers aren’t fully developed, as well as to many older people by virtue of its being considered an “excitotoxin”—that is, a substance that can literally excite certain brain cells to death, as the late Dr. John Olney, a neuroscientist from Washington University in St. Louis, discovered in the course of his research, leading to its removal from baby food.

Beyond all these health considerations, is the absurd notion expressed by Ms. Goldfield that using MSG is a form of “nuanced artistry” in cooking. This is a lot like saying that the use of performance-enhancing steroids is a form of “nuanced artistry” in athletics.

Lastly, I have to say how personally offensive it is to me, as a degreed educational psychologist and holder of a Ph.D. to have it implied in a nationally respected magazine that I’m guilty of “thinly veiled racism” because I expose the propaganda put forth by the glutamate industry and help the public to decern truth from fiction. How dare your writer make such a totally unfounded and defamatory statement!

In closing, I can only hope that you will take my concerns seriously, make some attempt to retract these fallacious and potentially harmful statements and instruct your writers not to act as conduits for industry propaganda in the future (and your “fact checkers” to make sure they don’t).


Adrienne Samuels, Ph.D.
Director, The Truth in Labeling Campaign

www.truthinlabeling.org / truthlabeling@gmail.com

The Truth about Gelatin

The Truth about Gelatin originally appeared in Earth Clinic a top-rated alternative health website that features in-depth information and videos about holistic treatments (for both people and pets), home remedies and effective health-boosting uses for numerous everyday products ranging from coconut oil to hydrogen peroxide.

By Adrienne Samuels

You’re likely to run into gelatin in some surprising places. While it’s commonly found in foods such as gelatin desserts (think Jell-O), aspic, marshmallows, gummy candies, vitamins, and other supplements (including pill capsules), it can also turn up used as a binder in yogurt, ice cream, cream cheese and anywhere a food manufacturer wants to create a good “mouthfeel” for their product.

But like sausages, nobody wants to see how gelatin is made.

Most of the gelatin found in food and supplements comes from heat-degraded collagen derived from pigs and cows. It’s an ugly process that completes the cruel loop of factory farming by taking bone, stripped skin, and connective tissue from slaughterhouses and processing them (through acid, heat, and grinding) into an innocuous-looking, tasteless powder.

There’s nothing in that bouncy gelatin dessert or a smiling gummy bear that will give a hint of the cruelty involved in its creation. But ethical concerns aside, there’s much more not to like about gelatin.

The Gelatin – MSG Connection

Although it might seem that a marshmallow Peep has nothing in common with a shaker of the MSG flavor-enhancer Accent, they are actually related as both contain manufactured free glutamate.

Just as drugs have side effects, manufactured free glutamate has side effects such as irritable bowel, headache, heart irregularities, and skin rash. In addition, manufactured free glutamate is an excitotoxin: a neurologically active compound that in high concentrations has detrimental excitatory effects on the central nervous system and may cause injury to nerve cells.

Manufactured free glutamate is created in food ingredients when protein is broken down into its constituent amino acids. One of those amino acids will always be free glutamate. It is also mass-produced using genetically modified bacteria that excrete glutamate through their cell walls.

In the case of gelatin, the Encyclopedia of Food Science and Technology states that glutamic acid (a.k.a. glutamate) which makes up around 10 percent of gelatin, isn’t the only neurotoxic component released during the manufacturing process. Aspartic acid, another brain-damaging amino acid is also present at a level of around 6 percent. Both sources will cause the same adverse reactions in people, and according to experts like Dr. John Olney, both glutamic and aspartic acid will combine to produce a toxic double-whammy.

Might you have a noticeable reaction to a gelatin product? That would depend on your individual sensitivity as well as the amount of manufactured free glutamate you consume in foods along with the gelatin. And your sensitivity is something that can change with age, illness, if you suffer a head injury, or consume a large amount of manufactured free glutamate.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Look at any gelatin-containing product in the store and you won’t see any mention whatsoever of glutamic acid, aspartic acid (or pigskin and tendons being bathed in acid for that matter). But beyond packaging, which fails to disclose important information about the possible toxic effects of gelatin, are the lies circulated by Big Food to convince you to buy their products.

You’ll hear that manufactured free glutamate is “naturally occurring,” has been extensively studied and found to be “safe,” and the biggest whopper of all — that the glutamate in the human body is exactly the same as what you’ll find in foods such as gelatin. The real story is that all manufactured free glutamate contains impurities that are unavoidable by-products of the manufacturing process.

But what about “kosher” or even “vegetarian” gelatin, are those better choices?

A Fishy Proposition

Kosher gelatin can be derived from either fish or cows certified as kosher and killed in a specific manner. Since kosher rules prohibit the combining of meat and dairy, if you notice kosher gelatin in a dairy product, it’s probably fish-derived.

Fish byproducts such as skin, scales and bones contain high amounts of collagen, and the processing will release neurotoxic free glutamate just as with gelatin from cows or pigs. Published research out of Indonesia has found free glutamic acid amounts in fishbone gelatin ranging from a low of over seven percent to a high of over 10 percent, with aspartic acid going from a low of close to five percent to a high of 6.5 percent, depending on the type of fish.

Vegetable Gelatin

As far as veggie gelatin goes, it too has issues.

Produced from processed algae and seaweed (a marine algae), vegetarian gelatins are derived from rich sources of certain amino acids that will also contain significant amounts of free glutamate and aspartic acid after processing.

If gelatin is something you’ve decided to avoid, it pays to read the ingredient labels of all processed foods and supplements thoroughly, as well as pharmaceuticals (including OTC drugs). And while you won’t be able to determine if the gelatin came from pigs, cows, or fish, the name gelatin is required to be listed on the packaging.


The Free Dictionary: https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/excitotoxin (accessed 5/4/21)

Amino acid and proximate composition of fish bone gelatin from different warm-water species: A comparative study.
https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1755-1315/58/1/012008 (accessed 5/4/21)

Is MSG a toxin or a poison?

Although the terms “toxin” and “poison” are often used interchangeably, there are some significant differences. According to encyclopedia.com “A chemical is said to be a poison if it causes some degree of metabolic disfunction in organisms. Strictly speaking, a toxin is a poisonous chemical of biological origin, being produced by a microorganismplant, or animal.”  (Emphasis added.)

It goes on to say: “It is critical to understand that while any chemical can cause poisoning, a threshold of tolerable dose must be exceeded for this to actually happen.”

So, strictly speaking, MSG, which is manufactured by humans as opposed to being produced by a microorganism, plant, or animal, is a poison.

The Free Dictionary would seem to agree.  It defines a poison as “a substance that, on ingestion, inhalation, absorption, application, injection, or development within the body, in relatively small amounts, may cause structural or functional disturbance.”

There are four very interesting facts about the poison in MSG.

1) The poisonous component of MSG is free glutamate.  It’s free glutamate that triggers glutamate receptors, enhancing the flavor of food, and at the same time operating as a poison.

2) There are lots of products in addition to MSG that contain free glutamate.  Just like the free glutamate in MSG, each enhances the flavor of the food with which it is eaten while it plays out its role as a poison.

3) Prior to 1957, tolerable doses of free glutamate would not have been exceeded, and the small amounts of free glutamate in processed foods would have not been poisonous.  Prior to 1957, there wasn’t enough free glutamate in processed foods eaten during the course of a day to produce more free glutamate than could be tolerated.

4) In 1957, a revolutionary method for producing MSG and the free glutamate in it was introduced and the use of both MSG and other free glutamate-containing flavor-enhancers began to grow exponentially. From that point forward, the amount of free glutamate in processed foods easily exceeded the amount that could be ingested without causing adverse reactions and/or brain damage.

The dose makes the poison.

Umami: the con of the decade?

It has always been my opinion that the concept of umami was developed to promote the sale of monosodium glutamate, with a very large enterprise developed to promote the fiction.

When I was first introduced to “umami” I had a creeping suspicion that the concept of umami had been promoted in an effort to legitimize the use of monosodium glutamate in food, drawing attention away from the fact that monosodium glutamate is a neurotoxic amino acid which kills brain cells, is an endocrine disruptor (causing obesity and reproductive disorders), and is the trigger for reactions such as asthma, migraine headache, seizures, depression, irritable bowel, hives, and heart irregularities.

It’s common knowledge that there are glutamate receptors in the mouth and on the tongue. Could researchers be hired to produce studies demonstrating that glutamate containing food can stimulate those glutamate receptors, and then declare to the world that a fifth taste has been discovered — calling it umami? I wondered.

Never mind that for years monosodium glutamate was described as a tasteless white crystalline powder. Never mind that Julia Child, who in her later years was recruited to praise the use of monosodium glutamate, never once mentioned the additive in her cookbooks. Never mind that if there was taste associated with monosodium glutamate, people who are sensitive to MSG would be highly motivated to identify that taste and thereby avoid ingesting MSG – which they claim they cannot do.

It certainly would be wonderful, I thought, if the glutamic acid in processed free glutamic acid (MSG) had a delicious, robust, easily identifiable taste of its own. Even if the taste was unpleasant instead of delicious, it would still be wonderful — at least the adults who are sensitive to MSG could identify the additive in their food and avoid eating it. MSG-induced migraine headaches, tachycardia, skin rash, irritable bowels, seizures, depression, and all of the other MSG-induced maladies, could become nothing more than bad memories.

Sometime after Olney and others demonstrated that monosodium glutamate was an excitotoxin — killing brain cells and disrupting the endocrine system — Ajinomoto, Co., Inc. began to claim that their researchers had identified/isolated a “fifth taste.” The “fifth taste,” they said, was the taste of processed free glutamic acid. This alleged fifth taste was branded “umami.”

The word “umami” has been in the Japanese vocabulary for over a century, being in use during the Edo period of Japanese history which ended in 1868. In the 1990s, it was written that “umami” can denote a really good taste of something – a taste or flavor that exemplifies the flavor of that something. It was said that the taste of monosodium glutamate by itself does not in any sense represent deliciousness. Instead, it is often described as unpleasant, and as bitter, salty, or soapy. However, when monosodium glutamate is added in low concentrations to appropriate foods, the flavor, the pleasantness, and the acceptability of the food increases.

For years, certainly up to the turn of this century, monosodium glutamate had been thought of as a flavor enhancer – like salt. Something that enhances the taste of the food to which it is added. Early encyclopedia definitions of monosodium glutamate stated that monosodium glutamate was an essentially tasteless substance. The idea (advanced by Ajinomoto) that monosodium glutamate has a taste of its own, as opposed to being a flavor enhancer, is relatively recent. Not just a taste of its own, mind you, but something newsworthy that could attract national or international attention. A fifth classification of taste added to the recognized tastes of sweet, salty, bitter, and sour.

The idea that monosodium glutamate has a unique taste can be tracked in the scientific literature if you read vigilantly. I don’t know whose brainchild it was, but it certainly was a brilliant move on the road to marketing monosodium glutamate – a move precipitated by a growing public recognition that monosodium glutamate causes serious adverse reactions. And even one step farther up the brilliance chart, this monosodium-glutamate-taste-of-its-own was given a name. Naming things makes them easy to talk about and gives them respectability. The monosodium-glutamate-taste-of-its-own was named “umami.”

We started writing about umami years ago. We were already familiar with the research that the glutamate industry used to claim that umami was a fifth taste, and we knew that, with possible rare exception, all of that research had been funded by Ajinomoto and/or their friends and agents. We also sensed that researchers outside of the direct employ, or outside of the indirect largess of the glutamate industry, found the idea of a fifth taste to be without merit.

We thought that we should begin by making the case that what was called the “taste” produced by monosodium glutamate is not a taste, per se, but is little or nothing more than the vague sensation that nerves are firing. We would start by reminding our readers that what industry calls the “taste” of monosodium glutamate is its manufactured free glutamic acid; that glutamic acid is a neurotransmitter; and that as a neurotransmitter, glutamic acid would carry nerve impulses to nerve cells called glutamate receptors, and trigger responses/reactions. Then we would explain that there are glutamate receptor cells in the mouth and on the tongue, and that monosodium glutamate could trigger reactions in those glutamate receptors — leaving the person who was ingesting the monosodium glutamate with the perception that food being ingested with it had a bigger, longer lasting taste than it would have had if there was no monosodium glutamate present.

Ask Ajinomoto, and they will tell you that there are studies that prove that umami is a fifth taste. Review of those studies has proved to be extremely interesting, but when read carefully, offers no proof that monosodium glutamate does anything more than stimulate receptors in the mouth and on the tongue and promote the perception of more taste than the ingested food would otherwise provide.

I actually spoke with one of the umami researchers on the phone, a Dr. Michael O’Mahoney, Professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology, UC Davis. He was doing research for the glutamate industry and, therefore, could certainly provide information.

Dr. O’Mahoney was warm and friendly, but said that because he had a contract with Ajinomoto to study the taste of monosodium glutamate he was not able to share information with me. An academician who refused to share information was an animal I had not met before.

Based on personal observations and conversations with MSG-sensitive friends, I have become increasingly certain that monosodium glutamate has no taste; that in stimulating the glutamate receptors in the mouth and on the tongue, glutamate causes the person ingesting monosodium glutamate to perceive more taste in food than the food would otherwise have; that umami is a clever contrivance/device/public relations effort to draw attention away from the fact that processed free glutamic acid and the monosodium glutamate that contains it are toxic.

And taste? A savory taste? Given what I know about Ajinomoto’s rigging studies of the safety of monosodium glutamate, I couldn’t help but wonder if they might have done something unsavory to support their claim that monosodium glutamate has a savory taste.

  • They certainly have studies allegedly demonstrating that monosodium glutamate has a savory taste. Were those studies rigged?
  • Did Ajinomoto feed something to the genetically modified bacteria that excrete their glutamic acid that would cause the glutamic acid to have a taste? A savory taste?
  • When the L-glutamic acid used in monosodium glutamate is produced, there are unavoidable by-products of production. Does one of those by-products contribute a savory taste?
  • Is some savory flavoring added to the monosodium glutamate product before it leaves the Eddyville plant?
  • Is “savory taste” a fiction invented by Ajinomoto and reinforced through repetition of the concept?

When it comes down to what really matters, whether there are four or five tastes is irrelevant.

When it comes down to what really matters, whether monosodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer or a flavor itself is inconsequential.

What really matters is that chemical poisons are being poured into infant formula, enteral (invalid) care products, dietary supplements, pharmaceuticals and processed foods — and one of those chemical poisons is manufactured free glutamic acid, found in monosodium glutamate and four dozen or so other ingredients with names that give no clue to its presence. That’s my opinion.

Adrienne Samuels, Ph.D.
Director, The Truth in Labeling Campaign