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Who are the glutes?

"The" glutes

The names that come immediately to mind are Andrew G. Ebert, Ph.D., Richard Cristol, Takeshi Kimura, Yoshi-hisa Sugita, Ph.D., and Steve L. Taylor, Ph.D.  The first four admit to working for Ajinomoto Company, Inc., their International Glutamate Technical Committee (IGTC) and/or their Glutamate Association. Taylor is Head of the Department of Food Science and Technology, and Director of the Food Processing Center at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Ebert, Takeshi, and Sugita work openly for the IGTC which was organized in 1969 after reports of adverse reactions to monosodium glutamate appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, and the first reports that monosodium glutamate caused brain lesions and subsequent endocrine disorders in laboratory animals appeared in Science. The IGTC's driving force seems to have been Andy Ebert, who claims to have founded the IGTC.  In 1969, Ebert was working for International Minerals and Chemicals.

The IGTC serves as core of the glutamate industry's defense department.  Both glutamate-industry research and propaganda emanate, directly or indirectly, form the IGTC.  And IGTC influence -- which flows primarily through Andy Ebert -- can be felt at every level. Ebert is an active member of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT).  In addition, IGTC chairman Ebert has served on committees of the:

Grocery Manufacturers of America (including the Codex Subcommittee on Food Additives);
National Food Processors Association;
Institute of Food Technologists (where he has served as an officer of the Toxicology and Safety Evaluation Division);
National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences Assembly of Life Sciences;
American Medical Association;
FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Food Standards Program (where he served as an Industry Observer); and
International Food Additives Council (where he served as Executive Director).
Steve Taylor, is also associated with the IGTC, but not admittedly so.  Taylor, who is a prominent proponent of the safety of monosodium glutamate and other ingredients that contain processed free glutamic acid (MSG), has done little or no basic research related to MSG safety/toxicity, but is respected for his knowledge about food allergy, having served, for example, as an officer of the Toxicology and Safety Evaluation Division and a member of the Expert Panel on Food Safety and Nutrition of the Institute of Food Technologists. His name appears prominently on advisory boards such as the Food Allergy Network,  and editorial boards such as the Encyclopedia of Food Science Food Technology and Nutrition. He has also been Chair of the Food Chemicals Codex Committee of the National Academy of Sciences, a member of the American Academy of Allergy & Immunology, and a member of the International Life Sciences Institute Board on Allergy and Immunology. He has privately acknowledged being a paid, glutamate industry spokesman. Yet, when he introduces himself or signs a letter, he typically refers to his University of Nebraska affiliation, but not to the fact that he is an agent of The Glutamate Association, the IGTC, or Ajinomoto.

Steve Taylor has something else going for him.  He received B.S. and M.S. degrees in Food Science & Technology from Oregon State University, and a Ph.D. degree in Biochemistry from the University of California, Davis (U.C. Davis).  It is probably fair to say that no school in the country has trained more food technologists or has a finer reputation for knowledge related to food science and technology than U.C. Davis.

Both Ebert and Taylor are good looking, personable, and quietly persuasive agents of the glutamate industry. It would appear that Ebert (with or without the help of Ajinomoto) also designs and arranges for implementation of their badly flawed research.  And Steve Taylor?  Taylor could be the role model for every food technologist in the country.  He is (or was) Professor and Head of the Department of Food Science & Technology, and co-Director of the Food Allergy Research & Resource Program at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.  Taylor is truly a man to look up to; a man to listen to.  And one story he asks people to listen to is the story that MSG is "safe."

Glutamate industry representatives and friends sit on boards of allegedly "independent" organizations. Glutamate industry researcher and spokesman Ronald Simon, M.D. has been a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Allergy support groups often include industry-friendly allergists on their medical advisory boards. Taylor has served on the Medical Advisory Board of The Food Allergy Network. Allegedly "Independent organizations" whose medical advisory board members have ties to the glutamate industry do not ordinarily provide their members with information about the toxic potential of MSG and/or where it is hidden in food.

Glutamate industry influence is also seen in peer review journals that publish their badly flawed studies. An argument is made elsewhere that published glutamate-industry sponsored studies are badly flawed. If that is the case, then their publication in peer review journals is difficult to explain. Consider, however, that if the peers who review the work of glutamate-industry representatives are themselves glutamate-industry representatives, or very close friends, the work of glutamate industry representatives may very well be published. Consider, also, that journals such as the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology take advertising; and journals such as The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition acknowledge the generous support of members of the food and/or drug industries. Both of those journals publish glutamate-industry sponsored studies. (They seem to be the only journals published in the United States that still do.)

Researchers looking at the "safety" of MSG

There are quite a number of researchers who have done work for the glutes over the years. You might not recognize their names, but you may recognize the names of the universities and medical schools that approve and provide research facilities for their their badly flawed studies.

The glutes' IGIS (International Glutamate Information Service) Web site tells us that "the science which supports our understanding of the role of glutamate in human nutrition and health has been conducted at [the following] prestigious institutions and universities around the world."

Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, PA, USA
Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA
University of Pittsburgh, USA
Mario Negri Institute, Milan, Italy
From the literature, we know that glutamate industry sponsored research has also been conducted at:
The University of Iowa
The University of Illinois at the Medical Center, Chicago
The University of California, Davis
The University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA)
Harvard University, School of Public Health
Northwestern University
Huntingdon Research Centre
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Nestle Products Technical Assistance Co., Ltd
Ajinomoto Co., Inc., Central Research Laboratories
George Washington University Medical Center
University of Texas Health Science Center
Medical College of Virginia
Scripps Clinic, La Jolla, California
V.A. Medical Center and the Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas, Dallas.
University of Western Sydney, Australia, Macarthur Campus, Faculty of Business and Technology
Istituto Nazionale della Nutrizione,  Citta Universitaria
Istituto Istologia ed Embriologia, Fac. Scienze, Citta Universitaria
The University of Iowa College of Medicine has a long history of cooperation with food and drug industry interests, particularly those interested in the production and sale of MSG and aspartame.  In 1967, the Mead-Johnson Professorship in the Department of Pediatrics was established by the Mead-Johnson and Company Foundation, Inc., and Lloyd J. Filer, Jr., M.D., Ph.D. moved from Ross Laboratories (a producer of infant formula) to the University of Iowa College of Medicine, where he served as Mead-Johnson Professor from 1967 through 1977.  Who better than a researcher with strong ties to an industry that uses MSG in its infant formula to ward off assaults against the "safety" of MSG.

In 1969-70, Filer chaired a special FDA "scientific" committee to evaluate the safety of glutamic acid (often referred to as "glutamate") for babies. Not withstanding the fact that John Olney had demonstrated that glutamic acid causes brain lesions and neuroendocrine disorders in laboratory animals, with infant animals being most at risk, Filer's committee concluded that monosodium glutamate was safe.

Subsequently, the committee was investigated, and most of its members were found to have close financial ties to the food industry. Chairman Filer, then Mead-Johnson Professor at the University of Iowa, was found to be receiving money from both the baby food industry and the glutamate industry.

Working actively with Filer at the University of Iowa to demonstrate the "safety" of monosodium glutamate were Lewis D. Stegink, Roy M. Pitkin, G.L. Baker, D.P Boaz, M.C. Brummel, E.F. Bell, T.T.Daabees, D.W.Andersen, W.L.Zike, and L.M. Murray.

Filer's group at the University of Iowa were aided and abetted by W. Ann Reynolds, then at the University of Illinois at the Medical Center, Chicago. Working with Reynolds was Naomi Lemkey-Johnston.

These two groups did work for both Ajinomoto and friends, and G.D. Searle & Company, maker of aspartame.  Studies from the University of Iowa College of Medicine and the University of Illinois Medical Center were financed and/or orchestrated by Ajinomoto, Gerber Products Company, G.D. Searle & Company, the IGTC, and Searle Laboratories. Funding also included grants from various institutes of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Olney had demonstrated earlier that aspartic acid (a structural analog of glutamic acid) and glutamic acid had the same toxic effects, killing brain cells in certain areas of the hypothalamus, and causing endocrine disorders later in life in those animals that had been given either substance as infants.  Both the research group at the University of Iowa and the University of Illinois undertook studies to "prove" that both the glutamic acid found in MSG and the aspartic acid found in aspartame (which contains neurotoxic aspartic acid as well as phenylalanine) were "safe."

There were actually two waves of  glutamate-industry research. The first consisted of animal studies that followed immediately after Olney's 1969 report that monosodium glutamate caused brain lesions and subsequent endocrine disorders in laboratory animals. They were spearheaded by Filer and Reynolds at the University of Iowa and the University of Illinois Medical Center, respectively. They pretended to replicate the studies done by Olney and others, but used inappropriate methods to preserve and stain brain tissue.  Moreover, they looked for signs of damaged neurons in areas of the brain other than those areas where Olney had found damage; and they delayed their observations until any evidence of brain damage, in any area, would have been obscured by non-nerve cells replacing nerve cells that had been destroyed.  It is of considerable importance to note that the Filer and Reynolds groups did those studies over and over again--which leads me to make the observation that, in my opinion, true failure to replicate a study casts doubt on the original study, and is of great importance. Pretending to fail to replicate, is tantamount to fraud.

Unable to counter the flood of research that demonstrated that ingestion of monosodium glutamate, as well as monosodium glutamate administered by other methods, caused brain lesions and subsequent endocrine disorders, glutamate-industry researchers turned to examining the effects of monosodium glutamate ingestion on amounts of glutamate in the blood, i.e., on plasma glutamate.  Other studies compared laboratory animals fed monosodium glutamate with laboratory animals not fed monosodium glutamate.  Either way, the industry message would always be the same: "No study reported so far suggests that MSG is unsafe for use as a food additive."  The industry message would always be the same?  Absolutely!  Any study that suggested differently would simply not be submitted to a journal for publication.

Ebert's name appeared on a smattering of research done in the 1970s, but the preponderance of the early work done to con the public into believing that monosodium glutamate posed no risk to the general population, was done at the University of Iowa and the University of Illinois, the Huntingdon Research Center, and the Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche "Mario Negri" in Milan, Italy.

Although not as big a player as the University of Iowa and the University of Illinois, the Huntingdon Research Centre and the Mario Negri Institute, Milan, Italy produced a fair amount of glutamate-industry-driven research during this time.  Researchers associated with the Huntingdon studies designed to demonstrate that "no dietary study reported so far suggests that MSG is unsafe for use as a food additive" included Alastair N. Worden, R. Heywood, R.W. James, J. Bunyan, E.A. Murrell, P.P. Shah, J.J. Newman, A.K. Palmer, D.H. Barry, F.P Edwards, Gareth Owen, Cora P. Cherry, and David E. Prentice.

Additional work came from the Mario Negri InstituteSilvio Garattini is the name we have seen associated with them most often. L. Airoldi, M. Salmona, A. Bizzi, G. Zanda, P. Franciosi, G. Tognoni, M. Rizzo, S.M. Standen, and P.L. Morselli are others.

At about the same time, Yutaka Takasaki, Sekine, Yoshimasa Matsuzawa, Iwata, O'Hara, Yonetani, Ichimura, and Sasaoka, carried out studies at the Central Research Laboratories of Ajinomoto Co., Inc. in Japan.

The second wave began in the late 1970s with the human studies. One of the glutes long time strategies has been to counter any study that might cast a shadow over the "safety" of MSG; and George R. Kerr, Marion Wu-Lee, Mohamed El-Lozy, Robert McGandy, and Frederick J. Stare at The University of Texas School of Public Health, the University of Texas Health Science Center, and Harvard University School of Public Health were recruited to counter the work of Reif-Lehrer whose epidemiological study demonstrated that 25 per cent of the U.S. population experienced adverse reactions from monosodium glutamate-- a figure based on amounts of monosodium glutamate then found in processed food.

Another glute strategy has been to convince researchers who questions the safety of MSG to do additional studies--which would be paid for by the glutamate industry.  In 1972, Kenney mentioned that, "It seems likely that monosodium L-glutamate taken as the salt is not physiologically equivalent to glutamic acid ingested in protein"  (a position the glutes will staunchly deny, which today we know to be true).  But in 1980s, Kenney, who by then was doing research for the glutamate industry, had only glutamate-industry-friendly things to say.

Scrutiny of the literature will demonstrate that for some of these scientists, early research relevant to the safety/toxicity of glutamic acid suggested that glutamic acid might have toxic potential (Auer, 1991; Kenney, 1972); while subsequent studies and/or public statements made by those same scientists proclaimed that MSG is safe (Auer, 1996; Kenny, 1979). By and large, those who represent the glutamate industry have produced research relative to the safety/toxicity of MSG only in response to encouragement from the glutamate industry to do so; and the only research that they have published has been research from which they have concluded that MSG is safe.

By 1980, evidence that MSG causes brain lesions and subsequent neuroendocrine disorders was so very clear that the glutes strategy became an attempt to ignore it. In the 1980s, they began actively to use the spin that research done on laboratory animals can not be extrapolated to humans; and they turned to producing a spate of double-blind human studies designed to guarantee that their researchers would not find any difference between test groups (given monosodium glutamate) and control groups (given things called placebos that were laced with the undisclosed neurotoxic amino acids found in MSG and/or aspartame).  No one university or medical school had an exclusive.

All double-blind studies had the same general characteristics, although details tended to vary.  With the possible exception of Kelly's 2000 research, all laced their placebos with neurotoxic aspartic acid present in the artificial sweetener called aspartame. And the methods they used virtually guaranteed that responses from groups given monosodium glutamate would not be significantly different from responses of groups given aspartame laced "placebos."  But just to be sure, the glutes always designed their experiments with a number of other safeguards in place. Our critique of the Tarasoff and Kelly study provides some detail.

Finding no difference between experimental and control groups, the glutes would tell the public that the group that had the monosodium glutamate had approximately the same number of reactions as the control group.  And the public would have no idea that there were lots of reactions in both experimental groups and control groups; and that the reason that the two groups had approximately the same number of reactions was because both the experimental group and the control were fed neurotoxic amino acids to which they reacted.  Subjects would have reacted to both the monosodium glutamate and the placebo that contained aspartame because subjects were sensitive to both monosodium glutamate and aspartame (which contained aspartic acid and phenylalanine).

The glutes did these double-blind studies for almost three decades.  During all that time, the material called the "placebo" was laced with neurotoxic aspartic acid found in the aspartame used -- but not disclosed.

A special role has been played by Ronald Simon, M.D. of Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation, LaJolla, California.  In 1991, Simon, with Dean D. Metcalfe, M.D., and Hugh R. Sampson, M.D., had praised the work of their friend, David Allen, M.D., who had found that MSG is an asthma trigger.  In 1995, Simon and Stevenson wrote to inform the FDA that they believed that the FASEB report to be released the next day had made a grave error in stating that MSG was known to be an asthma trigger, for they had found Allen's work to be lacking. In 1995, Simon and Stevenson were doing research for the IGTC.

There were others who produced negative results of one sort or another, conducting studies other than double-blind, who are cited by the glutes. Wurtman and Fernstrom may be names that you recognize.  Neither did double-blind studies per se, but their work gave the glutes something to point to vis-a-vis- the alleged "safety" of MSG.

In addition, Ajinomoto funded an array of studies designed to come, eventually, to the conclusion that monosodium glutamate had a unique taste -- a fifth taste called umami.  And they evidently invested millions of dollars in their endeavor, trusting that by focusing on the "fifth taste" called "umami," the world would forget, and new generations would not notice, that the thing that might cause that alleged "fifth taste" sensation causes brain lesions, is an endocrine disrupter (known to cause obesity), and causes a spate of adverse reactions ranging from skin rash to asthma,  heart irregularities, migraine headache, seizures, and depression.

There are some who speak on behalf of the safety of MSG who don't necessarily do research for them.  One such person is Steve Taylor, but Taylor is more than a mere agent.  Taylor is paid directly by Ajinomoto and/or friends.  Roland Auer, M.D., Ph.D. gave expert testimony on behalf of the FDA to the effect that MSG posed no problem to human health. Susan Schiffman, Ph.D., Kristin McNutt, Ph.D., JD, Patricia J. Taliferro, MPH, REHS, Hugh A. Sampson, M.D., Timothy J. Maher, Ph.D., and Dean D. Metcalfe, M.D. are others who have spoken out on behalf of  the manufacturers of MSG.

Others speak out through professional organizations.  The American Medical Association, the American Dietetic Association,  and the American Academy of Family Physicians, for example,  pass on the glutes badly flawed studies and the fiction that MSG is "safe."  They pass on the glutes half truths and lies.

Agents

Depending on the roles they play, researchers might be considered agents of the glutamate industry. In addition, there are those who promote the products of those they work for, just as public relations firms do, but these organizations highlight the fact that they are nonprofit corporations, while minimizing the fact that they promote the products of those who employ them. The International Food Information Council (IFIC) and the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) are examples of such glutamate-industry agents.

In 1990, faced with the threat of a "60 Minutes" segment scheduled to appear on CBS television that might expose the toxic potential of monosodium glutamate, IFIC became actively involved in representing the interests of the glutamate industry. The IFIC represents itself as an "independent" organization. It sends attractive brochures to dietitians, nutritionists, hospitals, schools, the media, and politicians, proclaiming the safety of monosodium glutamate. In 1990, an anonymous person sent us a copy of a "Communication Plan" dated July-December, 1991, that detailed methods for scuttling the "60 Minutes" segment on MSG, or, failing, that, provided for crisis management. IFIC's paid relationship to the glutamate industry is documented in the Encyclopedia of Associations.

Web pages and researchers recommended by the glutes are listed below:
 
 
Sources                                                                                          Researchers/Spokespersons
Web page the IGIS  (2/13/08) European Food Information Council (EUFIC)
International Food Information Council (IFIC)
Society for Research on Umami Taste
The Australian Food and Grocery Council's Food Science Bureau
Dr B Lindemann, Physiology, Saarland University Hospital
Glutamate Information Service
Ajinomoto Food Ingredients LLC
The Glutamate Association:  provided "60 Minutes"
with the name of scientific and medical experts to address
the use of MSG in food. (1991)
Fred Atkins, M.D.
Fergus Clydesdale, Ph.D.
    University of Massachusetts
Daryl Lund, Ph.D.
    Rutgers
Sanford Miller, Ph.D.
    University of Texas, San Antonio
Ian C. Munro, Ph.D.
    University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario Canada
Hugh Sampson, M.D.
    Johns Hopkins University
The International Food Information Council 
"Information Sources on MSG"
"The following individuals and organizations can provide
information on the safety of monosodium glutamate, 
its worldwide regulatory status, and its various uses in
the food supply"
Steve Taylor, Ph.D.
    University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Daryl Altman, M.D., FACAI
    Allergy Information Services
A. Allan Bock, M.D.
    Boulder Valley Asthma & Allergy Clinic
Susan S. Schiffman, Ph.D.
    Duke University Medical Center
John D. Fernstrom, Ph.D.
    Univ. of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic
Johathan H. Pincus, M.D.
    Georgetown Univ. Hospital, Washington, DC
L. Jack Filer, M.D., Ph.D. (Professor Emeritus)
    University of Iowa College of Medicine
Fergus M. Clydesdale, Ph.D.
    University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Richard J. Wurtman, M.D.
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sanford A. Miller,
    Univ. of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio
Roy Schwarz
    American Medical Association
Sara Petroff
    American Academy of Allergy and Immunology
Rick Slawny
    America College of Allergy and Immunology 
Ellen Brooks
    Institute of Food Technologists
Rona Frankfurt
    American Dietetic Association
Brad Stone
    FDA
Susan Conly
    USDA
Andrew G. Ebert, IGTC Chairman, recommended
that FASEB should contact the following researchers
to learn the current status of their work:
John Fernstrom, Ph.D.
    University of Pittsburgh College of Medicine
Richard J. Wurtman, M.D.
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
William H. Yang, M.. FRCPC
    Univ. of Ottawa, Dept. of Medicine, Ottawa, Canada
Andrew G. Ebert IGTC Chairman, copied his requests
for scientific review of MSG research to a number
of people, and named others who had previously participated in such meetings.
Fred R. Shank, FDA
Walter Glinsmann, FDA
David Hattan, FDA
Scheuplein, FDA
Rulls, FDA
Lawrence Lin, FDA
Kitty Bailey, FDA
Linda Tollefson, FDA
Michael Taylor, Esq., FDA

Lloyd Filer
D. Kirby
Richard Wurtman
P. Guion
H. Ishii
Y. Sugita

People and Organizations Influenced by Glutamate-Industry Agents: People and organizations that propagate their half truths and lies.

Some individuals and some organizations with alleged interest in food safety have reviewed the safety of MSG favorably.  Among them are

The American College of Allergy and Immunology
The Institute of Food Technologists
Tufts University Diet and Nutrition Letter, 1992
University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter, 1989
American Association of Retired Persons, various

Others have prepared brochures either stating that there is no evidence that ingestion of monosodium glutamate or other MSG-containing food additives should cause consumers concern; or listing food additives that might cause consumers concern while omitting mention of MSG-containing ingredients:

American Academy of Allergy and Immunology
FDA in cooperation with IFIC
Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation

The American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation allowed IFIC to claim "Favorable Review by the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation" on a 1991 brochure (International Food Information Council [IFIC])

The American Medical Association refused to implement a Resolution passed by its membership at its 1991 annual meeting calling for the AMA to "...encourage all appropriate regulatory agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, to mandate labeling of all foods containing even small amounts of additive L-glutamic acid so that individuals wanting to avoid this substance may do so."

Whether or not these people and/or organizations are literally agents of the glutamate industry or simply influenced by them is irrelevant. Either way, they publish material that is read by others who respect their opinions; and that material is uncritical of anything said or done by the glutamate industry. Characteristic of those referenced here is their unwillingness to print any addition, correction, or retraction after errors or omissions in published material are pointed out to them.

The potential for glutamate industry influence over the media is obvious. Radio, TV, and newspapers all carry food, drug, and cosmetic advertisements; and members of boards of directors may also be directors of food and/or drug companies.  But discussion of the media's role in forwarding the myth that use of MSG does not put consumers at risk is beyond the scope of this section.
 


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The content on this page was last updated on March 2, 2008