The most vulnerable in our society are children. Parents of babies especially want to make sure that their children are provided the best food.
The food industry, however, employed its usual tactic in the face of consumer criticism with MSG, especially with baby food. They buried it under new names. The industry came up with a fabulous range of euphemisms for monosodium glutamate – the most cheeky of all is ‘natural flavourings’. Most powdered infant formulas contain some of the following ingredients including processed milk and or/soy proteins, enzymatically hydrolyzed reduced minerals, whey protein concentrate, corn syrup solids, casein hydrolysate, modified corn starch, carrageenan, which are broken down into MSG during the manufacturing process.
What is MSG?
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is not a nutrient, vitamin, or mineral and has no health benefits. The part of MSG that negatively affects the human body is the “glutamate”, not the sodium. The breakdown of MSG typically consists of 78% glutamate, 12% sodium, and about 10% water. Any glutamate added to a processed food is not and can not be considered naturally occurring. Natural glutamate in plants and animals is known as L-glutamic acid.
In contrast, processed free glutamic acid (MSG) contains both L-glutamic acid and D-glutamic acid, and is also accompanied by pyroglutamic acid and other impurities. The impurities differ according to the starting materials and methods used to produce the glutamic acid (MSG). It is only acid hydrolyzed proteins that contain mono and dichloro propanols (which are carcinogenic), and it is only reaction flavors that contain heterocyclic amines (which are also carcinogenic).
By FDA definition, processed free glutamic acid (MSG) is “naturally occurring,” because the basic ingredients are found in nature. “Naturally occurring” does not mean that a food additive is being used in its natural state. “Naturally occurring” only means that the food additive began with something found in nature. By FDA definition, the ingredient “monosodium glutamate” is natural. So is hydrochloric acid. So is arsenic. “Natural”, especially in our beloved food industry, doesn’t mean “safe.”
Processed free glutamic acid (MSG) is created when protein is either partially or fully broken apart into its constituent amino acids, or glutamic acid is secreted from selected bacteria. A protein can be broken into its constituent amino acids in a number of ways (autolysis, hydrolysis, enzymolysis, and/or fermentation). When a protein is broken down, the amino acid chains in the protein are broken, and individual amino acids are freed. These processes are discussed in some detail in food encyclopedias — wherein articles on glutamic acid and “monosodium glutamate” are generally written by persons who work for Ajinomoto, Co., Inc., the world’s largest producer of the food ingredient “monosodium glutamate.”
It used to be that when any ingredient contained 78%-79% processed free glutamic acid (MSG), and the balance was made up of salt, moisture, and up to 1 per cent impurities, the FDA required that the product be called “monosodium glutamate”, and required that the product be labeled as such. The FDA required that other MSG-containing ingredients be identified by names other than “monosodium glutamate.” Never has the FDA required mention of the fact that an ingredient contains processed free glutamic acid (MSG).
While the glutamic acid in “monosodium glutamate” is generally produced through bacterial fermentation, the glutamic acid in the other MSG-containing ingredients is made through use of chemicals (hydrolysis or autolysis), enzymes (enzymolysis), fermentation, or a complex cooking process wherein reaction flavors are produced from a combination of specific amino acids, reducing sugars, animal or vegetable fats or oils, and optional ingredients including hydrolyzed vegetable protein.
It is now essentially unregulated when it comes to labeling standards. A label may say “yeast extract”, “calcium caseinate”, or “beef flavoring”, but the product still contains varying amounts of “free” glutamic acid. This makes it very difficult for consumers who are trying to avoid it. It is also very dangerous for those who suffer severe reactions to it. Many people who are very sensitive to MSG experience respiratory, neurological, muscular, skin, urological and even cardiac symptoms.