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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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