The Culture of MSG and ExcitotoxinsBy Mick Zellar
As one researches MSG and other excitotoxins, it usually begins at what symptoms are attributed to their use. And then the next step is where do we find them; what foods are they found in? That search leads us to realize that MSG is just one of the many excitotoxins that are being used today. Throughout this search for answers, other facts keep leaking in. We find that excitotoxins are not only being blamed for headaches, nausea and dizziness, but that science is suggesting that this is only the tip of the iceberg.
There is research that links the use of excitotoxins to the obesity problems in America. Other research suggests that Parkinson’s disease, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, Type II diabetes, ACLS, and other glutamate related diseases may have roots with the increased uses of excitotoxins by the food industry. And then finally, our research brings us to ask the question, “Why would our food suppliers use a chemical that is so destructive to the human body?”
First we have to look at the history of MSG and other related excitotoxins. The Asians had use a kelp, called Kombu, that was dried and chopped up to enhance flavor for centuries. It was discovered, in the early part of the 20th century, by a Japanese chemist just what the component of this seaweed was that caused this flavor treat. It was Monosodium Glutamate. He also patented a process for extracting it from the kelp. This was the birth of the MSG industry. Its use became common in the Orient and at the end of the 2nd World War, quartermasters from the armed services had heard from soldiers in the Pacific theater that the rations the Japanese used tasted great, particularly when compared with the mess that the American servicemen were getting. These quartermasters found it was attributed to the use of MSG.
Shortly after this, 8 companies that supplied field rations to the armed services were required to start using MSG. In the 50’s it was discovered how to synthesize MSG and since it was cheaper to synthesize than to extract, the synthetic industry was born. With in a few short years, we started to see the use of MSG in our food supply. One of the first roadblocks the food industry met was in the baby food industry. In early studies, it was determined that MSG caused brain damage to babies. It was fought for a moment but eventually the baby food industry accepted the findings and changed their formulas. Now is when the culture of MSG begins.
Fast food was born in the 1950’s and the need for a flavor enhancer was never more apparent. The Interstate was created by Eisenhower, which allowed fast transfer of goods from region to region and, all of a sudden, the food industry found it could build regional food processing plants and with the use of flavor enhancers to eliminate stale tastes and packaging flavor, they could build it and ship it cheaper regionally than to do the same process locally as it had been done for the history of the planet. Local brands started disappearing and large food processors could use lesser grade cuts of meats and vegetables, which enhanced their profits and with the help of advertising, they could sell the “taste” to their consumers. Soon, by the 1960’s and 1970’s, our food supply was tainted with MSG and other excitotoxins.
During this time, the scientists were discovering that synthesized excitotoxins were unsafe in many lab experiments with animals and were starting to question their use in our food supply. The Glutamate industry responded with their own studies that basically said, “Hogwash”. Look, our studies don’t show any harm to humans by using these chemicals. They said this was just another over reaction by the liberal left. This was just another example of socialists attacking honest businesses. With these proofs in hand, they petitioned the FDA to allow MSG and other excitotoxins in all foods and they got approval. Since that time, the FDA has simply become the Glutamate’s lackeys and has even used it as an example of a safe product to use when defining GRAS (generally recognized as safe) standards and compared it with table salt, pepper and baking soda. There are petitions today that are requesting that the FDA remove MSG from the definition statement of GRAS.
This history sets the stage for the “culture of MSG”. This history has to be understood before the question “Why would our food suppliers use a chemical that is so destructive to the human body?” can be answered.
I see this culture as broken up into three components:
1. Corporate America
2. Individuals within the industry
3. Agencies that oversee our food supplyCorporate America
We have given a corporation the ability to act as an individual. We call it an entity upon itself and this entity seems to make decisions, creates responsibilities it can be accounted for, and brings a return on investors’ dollars. It has become an umbrella that masks some pretty horrible actions in the name of profit. We saw the results of unchecked corporate behavior with the need for the creation of Super Sites of the late 60’s and 70’s. I lived in a beautiful coastal town in Western Michigan and saw the damage that industry can do. We had a lot of water and chemical industries need water. They literally destroyed fisheries and forests and put at risk many people that simply did no more evil than drank their own well delivered water. Most of these industries have disappeared from this area because, I guess, their industry wasn’t profitable enough to sustain itself with any sort of responsible actions by their corporation.
Corporations have no heart or soul. They are simply there to create a return on investment dollars. A corporation is an invention by the moneyed-men to protect themselves from retribution for acts of the corporation itself. The most they can lose is some money. It is near impossible to hold individuals criminally responsible for the acts of a corporation. When you see advertising from a corporation that they care about your community, remember that a corporation is nothing more than a document, registered in some state or province that simply says that it and only it is responsible for its actions. Corporate America does not care about you or me, because Corporate America doesn’t exist. Well it does exist in the minds of public relation firms and departments, and it does exist in those that are looking to blame somebody for something that happened in their community, but in reality, it is no more than an illusion to protect individuals from recourse. Corporate America will be blamed for the use of MSG when it finally becomes apparent that the use of it was a conscious act of evil created to simply increase the bottom line.
To support their efforts and to give them legitimacy, they create ‘Associations’. Some of these Associations would include the Glutamate Association, The American Dietetic Association and The American Frozen Food Institute. I just happened to name a few, but I am not singling out one of them, except of course the Glutamate Association. Let me quote from their website the reason for their existence. “The Glutamate Association, established in 1977, is an association of manufacturers, national marketers, and processed food users of glutamic acid and its salts, principally the flavor enhancer, monosodium glutamate (MSG). Among the Association's international members are many of the world's largest food companies involved in such diverse areas as the manufacturing and marketing of food ingredients, spice and flavor blends, and canned, frozen and other packaged prepared foods.
The Glutamate Association seeks to provide an effective channel of communication among its members, the public, the media, the scientific community, food professionals and government officials about the use and safety of glutamates. The Association also seeks to assure that relevant research and information on the safety and efficacy of MSG are made available to all interested parties.
Based upon the thorough review and endorsement of MSG's safety by international regulatory authorities and the scientific community, The Glutamate Association supports the use of MSG as a safe and extremely effective flavor enhancer, increasing the palatability of a wide variety of foods. “
It makes one wonder what was happening in 1977 that the food industries decided to band together to form an association to use, in their words, a “harmless” chemical that did no more than make our food taste better.
This group’s membership is secret and they will not divulge a membership list. Again, I wonder why the members wouldn’t want you and me to know that they belong to this group. The Glutamate Association has been responsible for the dissemination of misinformation concerning the use and the effects of MSG from its inception. It has used flawed studies, and lots of them, as if to be able to say, “From the preponderance of studies, we can feel safe using MSG in our food supply”. Some of the ways they have created flawed research is to give interviewees a placebo that has Aspartame (in their words a “harmless” sugar substitute”) in it and then don’t use those that react to the placebo (It should be noted that Aspartame cause the same reactions as MSG and other excitotoxins). This way, they create a group of people that are not sensitive to MSG and this allows them to skew the findings. Another way they use the Aspartame laden placebo is to give it to a control group and then compare their reaction to the group that used MSG, knowing that the responses will be similar enough, so they can claim, “See, it wasn’t MSG. It must be something else.” It is why there is such variation between their studies and independent lab and university studies.
Another trick they use is to cite results from studies involving monkeys. It is accepted in the scientific arena that monkeys do not react to excitotoxins as humans do and they seem to have immunity to its use. On the other hand, rats and mice more closely parallel the response that humans have and so they refuse to use these animals in their research.
I mentioned the American Dietetic Association simply because if you go to their site, and search for MSG, this is the only thing that comes up. “Have you ever heard of "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" or wondered what MSG is? MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a common ingredient in Chinese cooking. Some people have reported feeling tingling and warm after eating Chinese food, thus the term "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome." However, there is no research that connects these sensations with MSG. A more likely explanation may be that these reactions are due to a food allergy. If you want to moderate your MSG intake, order Chinese and other Asian foods without MSG. If the problem persists you may want to check with a dietetics professional to develop an eating plan that works for you.
Produced by ADA's Public Relations Team”
That’s it. This association is supposed to be interested in your nutrition and this is all they have to say about MSG. They could say that it has no nutritional value or make some comment from their field of expertise, but instead they chant the “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” out and give you medical advice, which is not something they should even be doing. It is a nutritional association and not a medical association and yet they went out of their way to give medical advice. One wonders why!Individuals Within the Industry
I use this as a component of the Culture of MSG, because all the decisions that have gotten us here were by individuals. Corporations, remember, are an entity but it has no thought process. Everything that a corporation is given credit for or can be blamed for is the result of individual decisions. Now, I don’t know about you, but I cannot believe the industries are filled with evil people, that are spending their nights in laboratories, cackling, looking over their shoulder with suspicion and producing horrible chemicals that will cause harm to the people of the world. Corporations are made up of committees. Committees are a great tool for “passing the buck” and allowing individuals to sleep at night. Memos from these committees are a great tool for “dodging the bullet”, and decisions from these committees are an efficient way of “getting your ducks in a row.” Don’t you love “Corporate talk”?
Remember I mentioned the preponderance of studies that support the use of MSG? These studies are as much for the people in the industry as they are for the public; maybe even more so. These studies help a person to justify their existence in whatever role they have in their corporation. They can use these studies to pooh-pooh all other outside studies and they can continue to accept the importance of their industry to the existence of the world. If their industry acts in a righteous manner, then they, themselves, will be acting in a righteous manner. It is this defense that has allowed individuals, masked by committees and aided by memos, that has allowed the inclusion of these poisonous excitotoxins into our food supply.
These individuals have simply been fooled and their willingness to be fooled is explained by the following statements. Their ability to take care of their loved ones may be dependent on the use of MSG. Their chance to fulfill their career choice could be directly related to the use of MSG. Their own self-image of a good and honest person is in jeopardy if MSG is proven harmful to the masses. Wow, there is a lot at stake and so it isn’t much of a reach for the average corporate employee to accept the results of the studies of the Glutamate Industry and the American Dietetic Association and other professional groups that support the use of MSG.
It’s actually disgusting. Do you really think that hundreds of thousands of individuals would be willing to be involved in the growing, processing, production and distribution of MSG laden products if they thought that it may do harm to individuals? Let me ask you another question before you answer that one. Do you really think that the people of this nation would tolerate our leaders if they waged war, attacking a sovereign nation without provocation and then torturing prisoners from that war? Yes, I guess, to both of them. It is called justification. These employees simply justify their own involvement by saying to themselves, “I just push paper around, or drive a truck, or stock a shelf, or mix what I am told to mix or do what I am told to do. Man, it is just a job.” And that is how it is done. That is how it gets distributed to your door and that is how individuals are involved and it would be pretty hard to blame just one of them.Agencies That Oversee Our Food Supply
We’ve already mentioned some Associations that we would expect to help protect us and I gave a couple of examples of how they don’t. You could have some fun and search out other food associations and go to their websites and put MSG into the site search engine and just see what comes up. I did just that at the American Medical Association’s site. You know these guys, the AMA. That is the Association that our doctors belong to. When you put MSG into their site search engine, nothing….nada….nein….nix….that’s right, nothing comes up. Try that one on for size.
But let’s put these private associations aside and let’s focus on the oversight agencies we have in place; for instance the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration. Let’s see what these guys are doing for us. The FDA has a standard called GRAS. In your research, you will see numerous references to GRAS standards. In this essay I have already mentioned GRAS. GRAS means ‘Generally Recognized as Safe’. It uses the standard spice items in its definition as an example such as table salt, baking soda and MSG. What? Yes, it uses MSG as part of the definition of GRAS. Why did they do that? I don’t know. By the way, as an aside, there is now a petition to remove MSG from this definition. We can only hope that it will happen. The use of MSG in this definition could be an example of the ability of the food industry to influence its own overseer, the FDA. Am I suggesting it could be? No, I will be more definitive, it is an example.
Right at this moment, on January 20th, 2009, on the morning a new President of the United States will be sworn in and a new administration will take over the running of our government, there is an outbreak of salmonella found in peanut butter paste that has been attributed to one peanut processing plant in Georgia. There have been hundreds of people falling ill from this outbreak, many being hospitalized and a few have died. The FDA’s response is to inform the food industry that they would like them to self-regulate this outbreak and to recall whatever food they (the individual companies) feel may have been infected with the salmonella. The FDA stated in their news release that they don’t like to force companies to recall foods and would prefer that the industry do so in their own responsible manner.
This is where the FDA is today. How did it get there? Can we trust it? We know that the neo-con right believes in smaller government and that many of the oversight agencies in the government became less effective starting with the R. Reagan presidency, but until we see reactions to a direct attack on our populace with sloppy testing and oversight, as we see with this salmonella outbreak, I don’t believe that anybody would believe that this agency had become so ineffective.
So let’s ask again the question, “Can we trust the FDA to oversee the food industry?” The answer is no, we can’t. Let me give you an example of how toothless this agency has become. The FDA, by Congressional edict, requires that all labels on food products list all the ingredients that make up the contents of the package. So the food industry actually has to get any labels they use approved by the FDA. Recently Campbells Soup Company put the statement No MSG boldly on their label with an asterisk. If you look for and finally find the sub-note you will discover that it says “Some of our soups contain yeast extract, a natural ingredient that contains a small amount of naturally occurring monosodium glutamate”. Sounds pretty good, hey? Yeah, it does sound good until you find out that autolyzing is not a natural process and the only reason you autolyze yeast or hydrolyze protein is to create excitotoxins or in other words, MSG like components. Ugly, isn’t it. The FDA must have approved this label as they are required to do so, even though it is deceiving.
I have a cousin that decided to eliminate MSG from her diet for health reasons. When I suggested she look at the list of other ingredients that are the same or worse than MSG, she literally threw up her hands and said she couldn’t do it. Besides, she stated, the FDA won’t let them use anything that is harmful to me without letting me know it on the label. And that is how that works. In other words, people trust the FDA to protect their interests and let’s face it, they shouldn’t.
The FDA is simply wasting taxpayers money by existing. It is a shill, today, for the food industry. It gives the food industry legitimacy that they don’t deserve. It is not a protectorate of us. It is not an over-seer of the food industry. It is simply, today, a hole that Federal funds are being tossed into. Hopefully, with the new administration, we will see some changes.
In conclusion, the food industry has created a monster by introducing MSG and other excitotoxins into the food supply. It is being delivered to us in the food we buy at the grocery store and at restaurants. It is being included in toothpaste, cosmetics, shampoo and conditioner, and even in the pumice the dentist uses to clean your teeth. It is a marvelous food enhancer and, therefore, a bad flavor masker. Ironically, with the outbreak of Type II diabetes, (which studies are suggesting may be enhanced by years of ingestion of excitotoxins) the diet industry has exploded. They depend on Aspartame and other sugar substitutes which give the same reaction as MSG. So a person that is a diabetic that that may have been caused from a life of eating and drinking excitotoxins is now using excitotoxins in his diet as a substitute for sugar.
There is an outbreak of obesity, which studies show is directly related to the use of excitotoxins in our diet. Of course, they blame it on “Fast Food”, but it isn’t the speed of the delivery that is the problem, but what was delivered to them to eat. It is why a pimple faced, 16 year old kid can cook a hamburger that you will claim is great and he can’t even cook his own toast at home. All the micro-wave restaurants today depend on centrally located plants to prepare their foods. What I mean by “micro-wave restaurants” is all the chain restaurants, such as Perkins, Apple Bees, Bob Evans, etc. The reason they can process and freeze these prepared meals at a regional plant and simply micro-wave it is that they depend on MSG or other excitotoxins to mask shelf life and packaging induced bad flavors. And if you decide that you are going to eat local, then you better ask if they actually cook their own food, or do they buy from a food distributor like Gordon Foods or Sisco? These large food conglomerates buy or process foods in regional plants, freeze and distribute, with the dependence of excitotoxins to cover package and shelf life flavors.
An experience that Sassafras and I had a few years ago in Kalamazoo, MI, is worth relating. We had stopped at a Perkins and noticed they had a new menu with new items. I explained to our server that my wife was allergic to MSG and we knew the Perkins menu pretty well, but we would like to ask some questions about the new items. She said that Perkins didn’t use MSG. We had heard this at a couple of other Perkins locations in Michigan and I took umbrage to it. She very pleasantly said that her Regional manager was in the store. She asked if I would like to talk to him since he was the one that had told them that in a meeting. Well, I went and met him and he assured me that Perkins used no MSG. I questioned him on this and told him what would happen if my wife ate something that had MSG in it. He said that he had just returned from a training seminar in Tennessee and they had told him that Perkins did not use MSG. When I started to tell him the dishes that I knew for sure contained MSG, he took his cell phone off of his belt and made a call, asking me to hold on a minute. He started to talk to somebody and told him what I had said about MSG being in his menu. He looked kind of shocked and when he hung up, apologized to me. He said the Corporate Trainer he talked to clarified it for him. Perkins did not add any MSG, and they did not use any products like Lowry’s or Mrs. Dashes at their restaurants, but much of the food they serve is prepared and frozen at a regional center and that this center did use MSG to enhance the flavor so that it could be frozen and then micro-waved.
This gentleman was so apologetic I felt sorry for him. He willingly accepted a couple of pages of information concerning MSG. They were a copy of the list of ingredients that contain MSG and the list of symptoms that can come from its use. As an addendum to this story, we bumped into him in an East Grand Rapids, MI location a few months later and he recognized us. He said he had something to show us. In the restaurants operations manual he had added the handouts we gave him and said he had put it in every operations manual in his region. He also said that he had shared it with other regional managers, but couldn’t attest to if they were going to use it as well. We thanked him. By the way, this didn’t make the food safer at Perkins. 80% of their menu still contains excitotoxins, but it made the experience of eating there safer because their management and wait staff were now aware of excitotoxins and that they were found in the Perkins menu.
So how does this increase obesity. Well for one thing, it all tastes good. Eating out is really a treat today, including at fast food restaurants. Have you ever been asked by a server “How do things taste?” If you have eaten out lately, you have. These servers are programmed to ask that question. With the use of excitotoxins, it will always taste good. By them asking you, they simply reinforced your “taste” experience you were having.
Here is a quotation from a book called “Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills by Dr. Russell L. Blaylock M.D. (pg. 80, 1997)
“…Consistently, the animals exposed to MSG were found to be short, grossly obese, and had difficulty with sexual reproduction. One can only wonder if the large number of people having difficulty with obesity in the United States is related to early exposure to food additive excitotoxins since this obesity is one of the most consistent features of the syndrome. One characteristic of the obesity induced by excitotoxins is that it doesn’t appear to depend on food intake. This could explain why some people cannot diet6 away their obesity. It is ironic that so many people drink soft drinks sweetened with NurtaSweet® when aspirate can produce the exact same lesions as glutamate, resulting in gross obesity. The actual extent of SG induced obesity in the human population is unknown.”
It is addictive. Studies have been showing that excitotoxins are addictive. There I said it twice. I can’t say much more than have you ever heard of a “Mac Attack”? Gotchya!
Also, there are comparisons by the food industry with the synthesized excitotoxins, extracted excitotoxins and those which are found naturally in nature. There is no comparison. The problems that exist today with the use of MSG and other excitotoxins come from the synthesized kind that is used by the food industry. It is that simple. There isn’t anyway of comparing synthesized and extracted or found naturally in nature. They are different components. Our body reacts differently to them. The proof is in the pudding, as it is said. Those that suffer from MSG reactions will not suffer from eating tomatoes, which are high in excitotoxins in their natural state.
It causes headaches. It is claimed to be the number one cause of headaches. I know that we have helped many people overcome their headaches by helping them change their diet. My wife was finally able to eliminate most of them 10 years ago, when she said, “I don’t want to get sick anymore” and we proceeded on this road of discovery, slowly ferreting out all the places she was encountering excitotoxins.
The problem with the headache symptom is that it is not consistent. Some are lingering, some are just irritating, and some are what we call the migraine variety. Some of these excitotoxin induced headaches start immediately upon ingesting the chemical, some start slowly and some don’t happen until the next day. It all depends on the quantity of the excitotoxins, the cooking of the foods, and the type used. Of course, if people suffer they go to their doctor. Here is where it gets ugly, again. Remember, I noted earlier that when you search the AMA site for MSG, you will get no results. So the doctor simply treats the symptom. He prescribes “good” drugs and has you come back in a month. Just like money in the bank, these headaches. And the beat goes on.
If you suffer from headaches, I am going to give you advice. Go to our ingredients page, print it, and try eating a diet for a week without any of those chemicals in it. If you do not have a headache, simply send me half of the doctor bill you would have paid. Thank you. Please come again.
Finally, I read an essay written on the internet where a person did an experiment with a friend that claimed to be sensitive to MSG. You can find it here http://www.flavorandfortune.com/dataaccess/article.php?ID=90
It is an interesting story, but it surely isn’t scientific. I would first ask this individual what the soup was made with? Was it a canned soup? Did he use a chicken base from a can? Did he use bullion? All of these have MSG in it. But you can find all sorts of these detractors that come from the food industry or come from a writers own ignorance and their own fortunate straits in that they do not react to MSG and the other excitotoxins.
Simply because you don’t react to MSG with a direct response, doesn’t mean that other people aren’t suffering. Simply because you do not react to MSG immediately, doesn’t mean it isn’t doing accumulative damage. In fact, independent studies show that all of us are accumulating damage daily from the ingestion of excitotoxin.
So this is the Culture of MSG. I hope it scares you a little. No I hope it scares you a lot.
GO TO www.saynotomsg.com