“The thing that bugs me is that the people think the FDA is protecting them. It isn’t. What the FDA is doing and what the public thinks its doing are as different as night and day.”
— Dr. Herbert Ley, Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner
The year was 1969, and the “flavor enhancer” monosodium glutamate (MSG) was all over the grocery store, even in baby foods. Despite a place on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list, scientific evidence had been mounting against the stuff that it was anything but safe. Psychiatrist Dr. John W. Olney had published a study in Science magazine (spurring even more studies) that year showing that MSG caused irreversible brain damage in infants.
It seemed that feeding pregnant rats a diet with MSG similar to that which an average person could consume in everyday foods resulted in the formation of fetal brain lesions. Everything from neuroendocrine disruption to learning deficits to obesity was found in oral studies where infants were fed MSG and grew up screwed up — and not just rats, either. The studies were replicated with similar brain damaging results in monkeys, baby chickens and mice.
The alarm was sounded and MSG was removed from baby food that same year to quell parents’ fears and save bottom lines; but despite study after study showing potential dangers not just to infants but adolescents and adults as well, it remained on the GRAS list and remained in the grocery store.
When Senator Nelson asked Dr. Olney three years later in congressional testimony how, despite 18 studies (by that time) confirming the dangerous, neurotoxic nature of MSG it was still considered safe for food, Olney’s response was quite to the point: “an industry-managed whitewash”.
It seems a committee at the National Academy of Sciences appointed to assess MSG’s potential hazard was filled with people who had major conflicts of interest. At the same time the committee’s chairman was appointed, he was concurrently under contract by Gerber Products and the International Mineral and Chemical Corporation (which just so happened to produce 80% of the MSG sold in the U.S. at the time) to complete MSG research. Wonder what his goal was there? Sounds really “independent,” doesn’t he? Two other members had also done research for those companies, and two more were concurrently toxicologists for major chemical companies DuPont and Dow Chemical. One of them had even appeared before the senate as a Grocery Manufacturers Association spokesman.
This is the group the FDA appointed to “assess” whether or not MSG was safe to eat, and sure enough, the following year they came out with their official finding of “no evidence of hazard”. One of the studies the committee later cited to senators to prove MSG’s safety was only in its very preliminary stages and only involved a mere 180 chick eggs, while at the same time, a completed study with over 13,000 eggs that clearly showed defects was all-but ignored.
Of the studies available then, the majority (20) reportedly showed that MSG posed a threat to health, while only four showed it was safe — and those four were all industry-funded. Big surprise.
But that’s how it works. What do we have today? Not only do we have MSG in foods all over the place, but it goes by at least thirty different names on product labels: autolyzed yeast, yeast extract, torula yeast, hydrolyzed protein, whey protein, gelatin, umami… Even if you wanted to avoid MSG, you’d have your work cut out for you simply in trying to keep up with how food manufacturers keep changing the name to continue trying to hide it in their products (likely to cover the fact that many are using substandard ingredients). This is allowed because these companies break down existing proteins to produce MSG derivatives, so they don’t have to put “monosodium glutamate” on the label even though free glutamic acid is still floating around in the food ready to potentially harm whoever eats it.
MSG has been shown to cause enough adverse effects to have it’s own complex: MSG symptom complex. In 1995, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) delivered a 350-page report to the FDA attesting to all of the adverse symptoms eating MSG can cause. Sufferers can experience headaches, nausea, difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, burning sensations, numbness, weakness, sleepiness, and ultimately obesity, depression, fatigue, eye damage and more (sounds like a pharmaceutical ad featuring the guy from Micro Machines, doesn’t it?).
But hey. Whatever tastes good, right?
MSG is a genetically modified excitotoxin that kills brain cells. It’s been linked to all kinds of diseases. The body uses the amino acid glutamate to transmit nerve impulses in the brain. Even the FDA admits, “Abnormal function of glutamate receptors has been linked with certain neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s chorea. Injections of glutamate in laboratory animals have resulted in damage to nerve cells in the brain,” but the agency basically goes on to say this doesn’t happen when you eat it… over and over and over.
Read up on non-nutritive sweetener aspartame’s approval and you’ll find a similarly ridiculous story. It only took 20 years for them to finally shove that dangerous chemical down people’s throats under a cloud of what can only be described as Hollywood movie script-level controversy.
An archive of scientific studies befitting its own library exists showing how damaging aspartame can be, yet it’s still GRAS and in thousands of products consumed by millions of people all over the world every single day. In 2007, a meta-analysis heralded as “the most comprehensive review ever conducted” by a “panel of experts” was published affirming that aspartame was completely 100% safe across the board. Again, a simple search yielded that ALL of the study authors have significant conflicts of interest that make the elephant in the room look like a fly on the wall. One of the authors was chairman of the American Health Foundation (AHF), funded in part by NutraSweet (aspartame) and other companies selling aspartame. Other board of directors members have included PepsiCo. and National Soft Drink Association reps. The AHF has held conferences on the safety of sweeteners. And that’s just one of the authors. It’s safe to say that this “comprehensive review” is less than independent.
Jacqueline Verrett, who sat on an FDA aspartame panel when it was going through years of being turned down for approval, but later spoke out as a whistleblower when it became clear this was yet another FDA whitewash went on to write the book Eating May Be Hazardous to Your Health where she tells the whole shameful story on MSG’s continued approval. She also discusses just how the FDA uses taxpayer dollars to fund research not to find out if something is safe for you and your family to eat, but to find out how much of a carcinogen you can ingest without immediate consequences.
After all, a little MSG here, a little aspartame there, a little petroleum by-product Red No. 40 or Yellow No. 5 artificial color dye, a little sodium benzoate, a little high fructose corn syrup (produced with mercury cell technology) and years down the road, you won’t have the first clue what caused the cancer that finally killed you (sucking all the money out of your wallet for Big Pharma cancer treatments on the way down, of course).
Chances of being diagnosed with cancer in your lifetime these days? It’s up to one in two for men, one in three for women. There is a 100% chance that you will personally know someone who has or had cancer in your lifetime. It didn’t used to be that way.
Our food didn’t used to contain so much crap, either.
The kind of thinking that led to the FDA’s de minimis interpretation (written by Michael Taylor, a once-Vice President of Public Policy for Monsanto who is currently our FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods) of the Delaney Clause (a clause that used to protect us from known carcinogens in our food) is used throughout food safety assessment with regulators only looking to whether a food additive is safe enough not to cause immediate, acute toxicity and/or death.
What is systematically ignored is any chronic, or long-term, low-level adverse effects, despite the fact that so many toxic chemicals added to our food today have known carcinogenic effects and bioaccumulate over time.
(This doesn’t even begin to touch upon diabetes, heart disease and strokes, gastrointestinal disorders, autoimmune diseases, allergies…)