And our physicians play right along with them.
There is no straightforward way to identify MSG in food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, or dietary supplements. A consumer may have an MSG-induced adverse reaction, but since MSG in food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and dietary supplements is not identified as such on the label of the product, the consumer may not realize that (s)he has come into contact with MSG.
Making matters worse, the glutamate industry (the glutes) have sold the medical community on the fiction that reactions to MSG are allergic reactions--which is not true. The glutes urge physicians to give allergy tests to people who might be MSG-sensitive, knowing full well that the MSG adverse reaction is a reaction to a toxin, not a reaction to an allergenic substance, and, as such, is not IgE mediated. Traditional allergy tests only identify reactions that are IgE mediated.
The only way to determine if a person is sensitive to MSG is to feed MSG to that person and observe him or her for as long as 48 hours after feeding; or to have the person keep a record of food, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and dietary supplement use and any MSG reactions.
Learning to pinpoint MSG as a reaction trigger, recognizing reactions that might be MSG-induced adverse reactions, and understanding where MSG is hidden in food, are essential to recognizing or diagnosing MSG-induced adverse reactions.
Some people eat MSG and react immediately.Some react as late as 48 hours after ingesting MSG. Of help in diagnosis is the fact that for many people, the time between eating MSG and reacting to it is generally the same each time they react.
Reactions are dose related. Some people cannot tolerate even the smallest amount of MSG. Others tolerate single small amounts, but react to MSG when they ingest a gram or more in any one meal. Others can ingest five grams or more, without evidencing a reaction. Canned soups analyzed some time ago, each contained about .6 grams MSG per serving. At that time, five grams or more MSG could, at times, be found in a single meal.
The adverse effects of MSG ingestion may be cumulative. People have reported eating products containing small amounts of MSG once a week without experiencing reactions, while having reactions when those same products were consumed two or three days in a row.
MSG is very often hidden in food. Hiding MSG makes recognition of MSG so complex and confusing that people who are sensitive to MSG have a great deal of difficulty pinpointing their sensitivities. If a person reacted after eating something known to contain MSG, he might suspect that MSG was the culprit. But if that person had the same reaction after eating something that contained MSG but did not disclose that fact on the label, he would very likely question his original suspicion. Until all sources of MSG are easily identifiable, evaluation of possible MSG reactions will be difficult.
Difficulty in diagnosing MSG-sensitivity is compounded by the industry practice of illegally advertising "No MSG," "No MSG Added," or "No Added MSG" on labels of products that contain MSG.
Difficulty in diagnosing MSG-sensitivity is also compounded by use of fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, and plant "growth enhancers" that contain MSG and leave MSG residue in or on crops when they are brought to market.
Diagnostic tools generally available to physicians are limited to a procedure called "challenge." In a physician's office, an appropriate dose (or doses) of MSG would be given to the patient, and provision would have to be made for both restricting the patient's contact with other potential reaction triggers and observing reactions delayed by as much as 48 hours. As an alternative, physician and patient working together may be able to identify, or rule out, MSG as a reaction trigger through analysis of a patient food diary. Restricting intake to totally unprocessed food and drink for three weeks, then reintroducing items, one at a time, may help identify offending sources of MSG.
For more information, see Ingredient Names Used To Hide MSG.
A number of the MSG-containing ingredients have been designated "organic" by the US National Organic Standards Board. The fact that they may have been made using organic starting materials does not alter the fact that they cause adverse reactions in MSG-sensitive people. For MSG-sensitive people, "organic" does not mean "safe."
One of industry's favorite ways of hiding MSG is to claim that there is "no added MSG" in a product. If an ingredient that contains MSG such as yeast extract is used in a product instead of "monosodium glutamate," the manufacture might make the statement that the product has "no added MSG." If MSG is processed into a product instead of being poured into a product, the manufacturer might declare that there is "no MSG added" or "no added MSG" in the product, even though the manufacturer knows full well that the product contains MSG. The FDA has deemed that such practice is illegal, but does not inforce its ruling.
In 1997, MSG was introduced in a plant "growth enhancer" (AuxiGro) to be applied to the soil or sprayed on growing crops. It would appear that the use of AuxiGro in the United States has been withdrawn, but it is presently being used actively in Europe, Asia, Central America, South America, New Zealand, Australia, and Africa.
There are a number of other MSG-containing agricultural products being used as fertilizers or being sprayed on growing crops without restriction. Hydrolyzed fish protein and hydrolyzed chicken feathers are two of them.
The glutamate industry is adamantly opposed to letting consumers know where MSG is hidden. Why? Because the glutamate industry understands that MSG is a toxic substance: that it causes adverse reactions, brain lesions, endocrine disorders and more. And the glutamate industry must understand, as we do, that if MSG in food, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics were disclosed on product labels, people who reacted to those products might realize that it was MSG they were reacting to, and might, therefore, refrain from buying products that contain MSG.
Letters that Truth in Labeling has received from MSG-sensitive consumers may be helpful in recognizing MSG-induced adverse reactions.