Let us count the ways.
I. Basic untruths inspired by the glutamate industry and parroted by the FDA:
“Today, instead of extracting and crystallizing [monosodium glutamate] from seaweed broth, [monosodium glutamate] is produced by the fermentation of starch, sugar beets, sugar cane or molasses. This fermentation process is similar to that used to make yogurt, vinegar and wine.” (From FDA: Questions and Answers on Monosodium Glutamate, accessed 7/20/2016).
Actually -- They forgot to mention the genetically modified bacteria that feed on these starches and excrete glutamic acid (glutamate) through their cell walls.“The glutamate in [monosodium glutamate] is chemically indistinguishable from glutamate present in food proteins. Our bodies ultimately metabolize both sources of glutamate in the same way.” (From FDA: Questions and Answers on Monosodium Glutamate, accessed 7/20/2016).
Actually -- The glutamate in monosodium glutamate is made up of both D-glutamate and L-glutamate. The FDA seems to have forgotten that impurities accompany the L-glutamate in monosodium glutamate when L-glutamate and/or monosodium glutamate are produced/manufactured. The glutamate present in unadulterated foods does not come with impurities.“Over the years, FDA has received reports of symptoms such as headache and nausea after eating foods containing MSG. However, we were never able to confirm that the MSG caused the reported effects.” (From FDA: Questions and Answers on Monosodium Glutamate, accessed 12/21/2018).
Before researcher R.A. Kenney went to work for Ajinomoto’s International Glutamate Technical Committee (IGTC), Kenney said "It seems likely that monosodium L-glutamate taken as the salt [as an individual amino acid] is not physiologically equivalent to glutamic acid ingested in protein.”
Actually -- It's not that the FDA has not been able to confirm that MSG caused the reported effects. They've not been willing to do so. The FDA has no program for confirming reactions to MSG. Twice, when pushed by consumers to evaluate their reports of adverse effects following ingestion of MSG, records were taken and then falsified.II. Truths left untold
III. FDA actions that speak louder than words
In 1989, Jack Samuels and George Schwartz met with ranking members of the FDA to discuss what Samuels and Schwartz referred to as the hazards of consuming monosodium glutamate. Since Schwartz did all of the talking, Samuels entertained himself by taking minutes of the meeting. When the requested official FDA minutes of the meeting were received by Schwartz and Samuels, they found the only similarity between their copy and the FDA’s was the names of the people who had attended.
It is, or was, an FDA rule to investigate the reports of life-threatening reactions to FDA regulated substances. Such investigations were not routinely executed.
It is, or was, an FDA rule to investigate the reports of life-threatening reactions to FDA regulated substances. On at least two separate occasions for which we have documentation, medical records of life-threatening reactions to MSG were altered/falsified.
The FDA repeatedly approved IGTC protocols for carrying out research that used aspartame in placebos.
The FDA has pretended to be concerned with public health, but has refused to require that processed free glutamic acid in processed foods, infant formula, enteral care products, protein powders, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and dietary supplements be labeled, so consumers could avoid it if they chose to do so.
A 50-year history of close cooperation
The FDA 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. The FDA has been cooperating with Ajinomoto Company, Inc. members of its IGTC and The Glutamate Association, and with the International Hydrolyzed Protein Council since 1968, if not before. The bottom line of that cooperative effort as it pertains to regulation of MSG is to prevent full and clear disclosure of MSG in processed food – or anywhere else, for that matter.
Glutamate industry involvement in FDA matters is rarely obvious. That's what makes it so effective in preventing meaningful labeling of MSG. FDA/industry cooperation goes back to 1958, when "monosodium glutamate" was first deemed "safe" by the FDA. Not found to be safe and thereupon added to the GRAS (generally regarded as safe) list. Only deemed to be safe because prior to the institution of the GRAS list in 1958, there had been no record of adverse reactions to "monosodium glutamate.” Looking back, with hindsight as our guide, we now understand this phenomenon. Prior to 1957, monosodium glutamate had been made by a method other than bacterial fermentation.
The first record of FDA/industry cooperation/collusion that we have in our files is from September of 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 that MSG was safe. It was later disclosed that two of the studies Commissioner Ley cited were incomplete and two did not even exist.
Before 1969, there had been no need for FDA/industry cooperation/collusion. It was not until 1968 that the first report of adverse reactions to monosodium glutamate was published in The New England Journal of Medicine; and not until 1969 that the first evidence that monosodium glutamate caused brain lesions and endocrine disorders in experimental animals was published in Science.
The FDA has built and then reinforced its case for the "safety" of MSG on misleading and deceptive studies sponsored by the glutamate industry. FDA regulations require that those who manufacture food additives must provide evidence demonstrating that they are "safe." The glutamate industry has, indeed, presented evidence; but they have falsified data -- not by changing test scores or research results, but by rigging the procedures used in conducting their studies so that only after careful scrutiny would one discern that their studies were flawed to the point of being fraudulent.* Glutamate industry studies are generally methodologically inadequate, statistically unsound, and/or irrelevant to the safety/toxicity of MSG. Researchers have gone so far as to use aspartame and/or MSG in placebos to cause subjects to respond to placebos just as they would respond to monosodium glutamate test material. In addition, industry’s researchers have been known to draw conclusions that did not follow from the results of their studies.
Over the course of the last 46 years, the FDA has summarily dismissed much of the research that clearly demonstrates that MSG places humans at risk. They don’t counter it. They simply ignore it. Reports of adverse reactions to MSG grudgingly collected by its own Adverse Reactions Monitoring System have been dismissed because "they could have been caused by something else."
The FDA has suppressed results of studies that might suggest that use of MSG places humans at risk. The FDA suppressed results of its own study that suggested that use of free glutamic acid in supplements is unsafe. In a July, 1992, report to the FDA, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) had concluded, in part, that: "...it is prudent to avoid the use of dietary supplements of L-glutamic acid by pregnant women, infants, and children.... and...by women of childbearing age and individuals with affective disorders." (MSG is called L-glutamic acid when used in supplements.) Mention has not been made of those recommendations – not to the medical community or anywhere else.
Countless books have been written detailing FDA corruption. The following are only examples:
Eating May Be Hazardous To Your Health - The Case Against Food Additives, by Jacqueline Verrett and Jean CarperThe FDA has refused to recall foods advertised as "No MSG," "No Added MSG," or "No MSG Added" even though those foods contain ingredients that are sources of free glutamic acid such as hydrolyzed protein, and are, therefore, in direct violation of Section 403(a)(1) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
Health at Gunpoint: The FDA's Silent War Against Health Freedom (Paperback), by James Gormley
The Rise Of Tyranny (Paperback), by Jonathan W. Emord
Codex Alimentarius Global Food Imperialism by Scott Tips
Inside the FDA: The Business and Politics Behind the Drugs We Take and the Food We Eat (Hardcover), by Fran Hawthorne
Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply (Paperback), by Vandana Shiva
The Truth about the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do about It (Paperback), by Marcia Angell
FDA practice has included distributing unsolicited copies of an FDA Medical Bulletin that assures physicians that MSG is safe. Similar material has been distributed to food service people.
FDA practice has included reviewing the subject of monosodium glutamate safety favorably in “The FDA Consumer,” “Talk Papers,” “Backgrounders,” “FDA Consumer MEMO’s,” pamphlets such as “Food Additives” -- FDA in Cooperation with IFIC; and sending out packets of consumer information: Consumer Information, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG).
FDA practice has been to name monosodium glutamate in the FDA’s list of safe food ingredients:
FEDERAL FOOD, DRUG, AND COSMETICS ACT Title 21 – Food and Drugs
Chapter 1 – Food and Drug Administration Department of Health and Human Services
SUBCHAPTER B -- FOOD FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION
Part 182 – Substances generally recognized as safe
Subpart A—General provisions
Sec. 182.1 Substances that are generally recognized as safe
(a) 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, vinegar, baking powder, and monosodium glutamate as safe for their intended use.
In the January-February, 2003 FDA Consumer magazine, Michelle Meadows spewed out paragraphs that look like they came right off the Web pages of The Glutamate Association and the International Glutamate Information Service that give the appearance of trying to convince consumers that processed free glutamic acid is "safe" while saying nothing. The article was titled, “MSG: A Common Flavor Enhancer.”
In the late 1980s, the FDA established an Adverse Reactions Monitoring system (ARMS) concerned with the retrieval, processing, and analysis of data related to adverse health effects associated with specific food products and additives. The ARMS was a passive surveillance system allegedly designed to identify specific areas for focused clinical investigations on potentially causal associations. At one time, ARMS collected reports of adverse reactions to aspartame, monosodium glutamate, and sulfites. But since everyone at the FDA knows that both aspartame and monosodium glutamate are harmless food additives; and there has been some regulation of sulfites, ARMS is no longer needed. ARMS no longer exists.
When called upon to investigate charges that the behavior of the FDA was inappropriate, the FDA/HHS Office of the Inspector General, guaranteed that the investigation would be killed by turning the investigation over to the Office of Research Integrity, which, under no circumstances, would have jurisdiction in this matter.
When challenged in a suit over full and clear labeling of MSG (August 29, 1995), the Court considered nothing but the Administrative Record presented by the FDA. Studies that demonstrated that 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 (refusal to label MSG), 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."
The FDA has distorted results of its own research to serve the propaganda needs of the glutamate industry. In a 1995 study, the FDA's Daniels, Joe, and Diachenko misrepresented their own data about the toxicity of monosodium glutamate, and also misrepresented research findings of others (2).
In 1971, the FDA’s Lynch, Lewis, and Adkins reported that hyperglycemia along with growth suppression followed ingestion of MSG; and noted that hyperglycemia did not occur when subjects were given intact protein containing a large amount of glutamate – an observation that the FDA has chosen to ignore in favor of promoting the glutamate industry line that the L-glutamate in monosodium glutamate and in the human body are identical in all ways (3).
Historically, in setting up reviews of the safety (never toxicity) of monosodium glutamate, the FDA has contracted with groups that provided consultants with strong ties to the glutamate industry, and/or structured their allegedly "independent" reviews to consider only industry-approved data.
Historically, every time concern about MSG toxicity has intensified, the FDA has called for an "independent" review of the safety of MSG and has, thereby, stalled addressing the issue of MSG toxicity.
In 1992, the FDA contracted with FASEB to do an "independent" review of the safety of MSG in food. Every aspect of that study was marked by lack of objectivity and FDA/FASEB pro-industry bias. In their Request for Proposal, for example, the FDA asked questions that could not be answered; appointed Expert Panel members (at least four of the eight members selected by FASEB) who had ties to the glutamate industry; and attempted to eliminate relevant non-industry-produced data from consideration.
Legislators who inquire about the safety of MSG are routinely told that the issue is being studied.
Manufacturers who inquire about the safety of MSG are told there is a study under way.
When a draft of the FASEB final report was submitted to the FDA in September, 1994, that top-secret report was shared with the glutamate industry, found unacceptable, and sent back to FASEB by the FDA for "further study" -- with instructions that FASEB should include the misinformation that consumers would not react to less than 2.5 or 3 grams processed free glutamic acid taken in a single meal. This was the path designed to pave the way for calling for the labeling of 3.0 grams or more processed free glutamic acid (but not less than 3.0 grams processed free glutamic acid) if – if – in the future the FDA was forced to pretend to label processed free glutamic acid.
The FDA/FASEB contract to provide "clarification" was signed February 1, 1995. The new contract provided the FDA with ammunition that they would use for refusing to identify all MSG in processed food if, in the future, they might be pressured to do so.
Everything about that contract and the way in which it was executed suggests that the FDA/FASEB report published in 1995 was undertaken in order to justify the FDA's refusal to require that all MSG in processed food be labeled.
Specifically, the FDA asked FASEB to review data relevant to possible limitations on the use of glutamates; and to review data relevant to recommendations for special labeling requirements, and/or recommended levels of use of glutamates. As if to guarantee the outcome of the FASEB report, the FDA, in the Background Section of its contract, referred to evidence that people react to doses of 3 grams or more MSG, but failed to refer to evidence (from the same study as well as others) that people react to doses of less than 3 grams MSG. The FDA also mentioned, in its new contract, that asthma can be "worsened" with doses of more than 2.5 grams MSG, but failed to mention that asthma can also be "worsened" with doses of less than 2.5 grams MSG, and that MSG can trigger asthma-type attacks in non-asthmatics. Finally, the FASEB study’s outcome was guaranteed by the facts that FASEB was required 1) to respond directly to questions asked by the FDA; 2) to respond only to questions asked by the FDA; and 3) to review certain data, while ignoring certain other data.
The FDA's rejection of the FASEB September, 1994 draft final report on the safety of MSG in food was not without precedent. When a FASEB committee submitted its evaluation of the safety of MSG to the FDA in July, 1978, the FDA returned the report "for updating in light of new information on these substances presented at an international symposium in May, 1978." The symposium in question had been sponsored by the glutamate industry, and, with rare exception, the research reported had been sponsored by them, too.
Following the 1995 release of the “independent” FASEB report, the FDA published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which reinforced the design for labeling some processed free glutamic acid, but not all processed free glutamic acid, if – if – the FDA became forced to pretend to label processed free glutamic acid. The point was to set the minimum for labeling at 3.0 grams processed free glutamic acid which would insure that some processed free glutamic acid, but not most processed free glutamic acid, would be labeled; and that most processed free glutamic acid would remain unlabeled. This was notice of a possible proposal; not a proposal; not anything on which the public could formally comment.
Controlling reviews of the "safety" (never "toxicity") of MSG has not been the glutamate industry’s only strategy for proving that monosodium glutamate is a harmless food additive. Their power can be seen in the FDA's appointment of Andrew G. Ebert, Ph.D., then Chairman of the IGTC, and Kristen McNutt, Ph.D., J.D., a spokesperson sponsored by The Glutamate Association, to the FDA Food Advisory Committee -- and the FDA's refusal to appoint a single person who might be considered a legitimate consumer advocate.
The appointment of McNutt and Ebert, and refusal to appoint a consumer advocate, demonstrates clear cut conflict of interest. Appointment of Ebert, and subsequent refusal to dismiss him, also demonstrates the FDA's complicity in clear cut scientific fraud.
Why fraud? Because Ebert had distrbuted both test materials and materials that he called placebos (allegedly inert substances that could not possibly cause a physical reaction in a person who ingested them) for use in double-blind studies designed to demonstrate that monosodium glutamate is safe. And the supposed placebos that Ebert distributed were not inert substances at all, but, known to Ebert, contained aspartame, a substance made up of aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and a methyl esther. Aspartic acid is a neurotoxic amino acid and structural analog of glutamic acid, the neurotoxic ingredient in MSG. Both aspartic acid and glutamic acid cause brain lesions, retinal deterioration, and neuroendocrine disorders in laboratory animals. In addition, not only are there (or were there) over 7,000 records of adverse reactions to aspartame on file with the FDA, the reactions mentioned are the same reactions reported to the FDA by people who are sensitive to MSG. Even the relative frequencies with which the reactions occur are the same. Could it be by other than purposeful intent that Ebert not only defiled the integrity of the placebo, but used in his placebos a substance that would not only guarantee adverse reactions in people who were exposed to amounts that exceeded their dose tolerance levels, but would precipitate the same reactions as monosodium glutamate? For more about Ebert, click here.
IV. The face at the FDA
Michael Taylor was industry’s man at the FDA for a number of years, serving as the Deputy Commissioner there from 2010 to 2016. He comes from Monsanto: 1) producer of Glyphosate, Roundup’s active ingredient, and the most widely used herbicide in the United States; and 2) leader in creation and sales of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). To our knowledge, Taylor has never worked for Ajinomoto – never worked directly for Ajinomoto. But Ajinomoto and Monsanto have worked closely together for years. And Taylor was there front and center on “60 Minutes” for the glutamate industry when the glutamate industry was looking for someone to testify to the safety of monosodium glutamate. Who better to testify to the safety of monosodium glutamate on CBS than someone at the FDA? For a video of the 60 Minutes program, click here.
V. The big picture
You have to understand just how the game is played in order to appreciate the hold that industry has on every branch of government in this country; on a large part of the scientific community; and on the media. If MSG was ever identified on food labels, consumers might notice that MSG was possibly causing or exacerbating illness and disease; and exposing that fact would cost the glutamate industry billions of dollars in lost revenues. So researchers are hired to turn out research that claims to have demonstrated the safety of MSG; physicians, "scientists," and public relations firms are hired to fabricate stories about the safety of MSG; and the FDA, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) do the bidding of the rich and powerful food, drug, and cosmetic industries -- pronouncing that their toxic products are "safe." And the people we have elected to public office ignore the fact that millions of pounds of neurotoxic MSG are being fed to our children, ourselves, and the elderly; that millions of people are suffering because of it; that the use of this excitotoxic amino acid in processed food contributes exponentially to the cost of health care in this country.
It’s the same game that is currently being played by Ajinomoto over its aspartame interests. It’s the same game that is now being played by Monsanto/Bayer over Roundup, glyphosate, and GMOs. It’s the same game that’s been played for years by the cigarette industry.
The FDA is diametrically opposed to letting consumers know where MSG is hidden in food. For two decades, the glutamate industry, led by Ajinomoto Company, Inc. and the FDA, and the USDA maintained that MSG did not cause or exacerbate brain lesions or neuroendocrine disorders. Later, no longer able to deny the relationship between MSG and brain lesions, the glutamate industry, moved to the argument that brain lesions and neuroendocrine disorders can be caused by MSG, but only in laboratory animals; and that what applies to those laboratory animals does not apply to humans. And the FDA and the USDA moved with them. Finally, faced with growing consumer recognition that MSG is causing adverse reactions in substantial numbers of people; and that the glutamate cascade is implicated in such disease conditions as addiction, stroke, epilepsy, degenerative disorders (Alzheimer's disease, ALS, and Parkinson's disease), brain trauma, neuropathic pain, schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression; the glutamate industry changed its strategy. Instead of having the FDA claim that essentially no one is sensitive to MSG, Ajinomoto and friends would agree to labeling some MSG, but not all MSG. They would agree to labeling MSG only when found in amounts that far exceeded the amounts of MSG presently found in processed food.
And if you are concerned? You, the taxpayer? You, the voter? Industry depends on the fact that most consumers will throw up their hands in frustration and disgust and do nothing. Industry also depends on the fact that they control the media. Not since 1991 when "60 Minutes" did a segment on MSG, and there was comment on radio, TV, and in a number of major newspapers, has there been negative mention in any major media outlet about MSG.
Newspapers live off the people who buy them, and TV stations live off their ratings. Every legislator depends on the votes of consumers, and FDA, EPA, USDA, and NIH funding comes from the legislature.
When it was demonstrated to the FDA – to the FDA – that all of the research that had been submitted as evidence that monosodium glutamate was a harmless food additive was flawed – flawed to the point of being fraudulent* -- the FDA did nothing. Nothing.
MSG is all about money. Both in and out of the FDA.
2. Daniels, D.H., Joe, F.L. and Diachenko, G.W. (1995). Determination of free glutamic acid in a variety of foods by high-performance liquid chromatography. Food Additives and Contaminants 12:21-29.
3. Lynch, JF Jr, Lewis LM, Adkins JS. Monosodium glutamate-induced hyperglycemia in weanling rats. Fed Proc. 1971;30(2):460Abs (Abstract #1477).
* The term 'fraud' is generally defined in the law as an intentional misrepresentation of material existing fact made by one person to another with knowledge of its falsity and for the purpose of inducing the other person to act, and upon which the other person relies with resulting injury or damage. [Fraud may also include an omission or intentional failure to state material facts, knowledge of which would be necessary to make other statements not misleading.] Accessed on 11/4/2010 at the 'Lectric Law Library's Lexicon.