I have listened carefully to the platforms of all candidates for the office of president, and one thing about the platforms that they present bothers me greatly. Not one candidate has mentioned the need to remove the toxic chemicals from our food supply, and to make such federal agencies as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the United States Agriculture Department (USDA), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) more responsive to the concerns of the people they are supposed to be serving.
My special interest is to see that the FDA require food processors to measure all processed food, post production, for free glutamic acid, and that when free glutamic acid is found to be present, it be disclosed as “MSG,” the term that people understand, with the amount present stated in milligrams per serving. I fully understand that MSG is only one of many food issues that we have in our country, but I have decided to put my efforts behind the MSG issue because it clearly is causing adverse reactions in more than 25 percent of the population,1,2 and some of those reactions are debilitating and/or life threatening.3,4 Through our web site (www.truth-inlabeling.org), I interact with MSG-sensitive people daily, and I can assure you that there are many people who are truly suffering because of the actions, or I should say inaction, of our governmental agencies on the MSG issue. As an MSG-sufferer, I well understand the public’s frustration in trying to avoid a toxic substance, MSG, that is affecting the quality of their lives.
Why would the FDA side with the glutamate and food and drug industry in claiming MSG is safe? The FDA says that there is no science to indicate that MSG is unsafe. That is a blatant lie. All one need do is to access the Medline retrieval service at a medical school library, a major public library, or through the Internet. Do a “keyword search,” requesting abstracts, using the words “glutamic acid” in combination with the words “learning disabilities.” Then do additional searches in which you combine “glutamic acid” with such words as “obesity,” “brain lesions,” “blood brain barrier,” “placental barrier,” “migraine headache,” “tachycardia,” “asthma,” “seizures,” “neurodegenerative disease,” “retina,” “schizophrenia,” “hormones,” “amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,” and “multiple sclerosis.” Also, access the Psychological Abstracts retrieval system and combine the words “glutamic acid” with “behavior.” Long before you have finished your search, you will wonder what the FDA is thinking when they continue a GRAS (generally recognized as safe) designation for MSG. You may also wonder how the EPA can allow free glutamic acid to be sprayed on agricultural crops.
Over the years, the FDA has referred to a number of studies that have concluded that MSG is safe for humans. All of these studies have, in some way, a connection to the glutamate industry.
In July, 1993, my wife and I were in the FDA Dockets Management Branch to review some papers in the docket covering an FDA funded study on the safety of MSG in food. Completely by accident, while leafing through a docket, I found a letter from the chairman of the International Glutamate Technical Committee (IGTC) that admitted to the fact that most, if not all of the IGTC sponsored studies on the safety of MSG used a reactive substance, aspartame, in the placebo and test material–a reactive substance that is known to cause MSG-sensitive people to suffer similar reactions to the reactions they experience from MSG. Furthermore, the reactive substance was used before it was approved for use in food by the FDA, and was used without notice to subjects, placing any pregnant subject’s fetus at risk.
The FDA, which was immediately contacted, refused to address the issue. They ultimately assigned the task of commenting on the appropriateness of using a neurotoxic substance, aspartame, in placebo and test materials to an outside agency. Based on the findings of the outside agency, aspartame is no longer to be used for double blind studies on MSG. The FDA, however, did not reevaluate its stand that MSG is safe.
Another historical fact. In 1992, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) began an FDA funded study on the safety of MSG in food. The cost of the study was in excess of $500,000. Two years later, in September, 1994, FASEB presented a Final Draft Report to the FDA. The FDA rejected the report, and gave FASEB approximately $125,000 additional money to “clarify” their report.
Knowing that the Final Draft had been seen by glutamate industry agents, we requested a copy under the Freedom of Information Act. Our repeated efforts have been unsuccessful in obtaining a copy of the Final Draft from the FDA. We even requested the document under Discovery in a federal lawsuit against the FDA. However, the FDA invoked the Federal Administrative Procedures Act and refused to present the requested document to the court.
The final straw occurred in February, 2000. Apparently, the heat on the FDA to produce the FASEB Final Draft became too great. The FDA wrote us on February 25, 2000 to inform us that the Final Draft– the $500,000 Final Draft –had been destroyed, and that FASEB had moved offices and probably could not fulfill a request for a copy of the Final Draft.
For further details of our dealings with the FDA, read the peer reviewed article by Adrienne Samuels, Ph.D., on Internet at http://www.truthinlabeling.org/l-manuscript.htm. (If access is denied, use “html” in place of “htm.”)
- Reif-Lehrer, L. “A questionnaire study of the prevalence of Chinese restaurant syndrome.” Fed. Proc. 36:1617-1623, 1977.
- Kenney, R. A. and Tidball, C. S. “Human susceptibility to oral monosodium L-glutamate.” Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 25:140-146, 1972.
- Scopp, A. L. “MSG and hydrolyzed vegetable protein induced headache: a review and case studies.” Headache. 31:107-110, 1991
- Allen, D. H. et al. “Monosodium L-glutamate-induced asthma.” Journal of Allergy. 80: No 4, 530-537, 1987.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2000.