I read something that infuriated me on two levels this morning. It was another article written by “experts” explaining that monosodium glutamate (MSG) is harmless and people who claim bad reactions from it are either reacting to something else, dealing with psychological issues, or just exaggerating.
More years ago than I care to think, my college roommate and I were sitting in LUMS, eating our requisite beer cooked hotdog with Sherry Sauerkraut, when a news report came on the television. Scientists had come to the conclusion that MSG, the flavor enhancer used liberally in most of the food we consumed, was killing off brainwaves at an alarming rate. I remember pondering it for a bit as the newscaster discussed “Chinese food syndrome” and then dismissing it in the way most college students dismiss things they prefer not dealing with at the time.
Lobbyists for the industry quickly got involved as manufacturers of processed foods that were laden with the accused ingredient began to panic. Not only did most processed food contain MSG, but housewives were buying it in the form of ACCENT in bucketloads as the industry expanded each year. This powdery ingredient added umami to weak tasting foods at a very reasonable price. Rather than using an entire chicken to make a soup, a quarter of a chicken and a teaspoon of accent would show the same results. Economically it was a miracle ingredient.
As the years moved on, the battle between the scientists and the lobbyist continued, and it is still waging as I write this blog today. I am very familiar with both sides of the issue, because my second pregnancy altered my body and rendered me uncomfortably allergic to MSG. this was no light matter for a woman who frequented Chinese restaurants weekly and even enjoyed her occasional fast food meal now and again.
My reactions are unmistakeable and include headaches, rashes, uncontrollable shivering and breathing issues to name a few. Interestingly enough, I am able to eat foods containing naturally occurring MSG (tomatoes, mushrooms, etc) with no reaction, but the chemically produced culprit is my enemy. I can eat few processed foods and must check with chefs before visiting many restaurants.
Through the years I have pondered over both sides of the MSG battle and watched both sides greatly exaggerate to make their points. Two things are certain. 1 - Healthwise, we would be much better off if chemically produced MSG was removed from all products immediately, and 2 - financially the removal would prove disastrous to many large corporations. While the MSG lobbyists have won out through the years so far, we are becoming a more health conscious nation, and more and more processed foods claim to have no added MSG. Unfortunately, as long as lobbyists contribute to the running of our country, our health will not win out, and products like tobacco and monosodium glutamate will continue to be a part of our every day lives.
The article that I read angered me because it used half truths to convince its readers that they are perfectly safe adding this white powder to their foods and made those of us that suffer with a real intolerance to it seem just a bit crazy, and it angered me to realize that the American public can not really trust much of what they read anymore.
We are living in a time when scientists are being doubted and the scientific method scoffed at, and that is a very dangerous precedent to set. Even though it might be more comfortable to brush off scientific proof and enjoy what we want without worry, we must fight the attempts to discredit these men and women who have nothing to gain but truth as they present their findings to us in all areas.
My chosen author for this week mixed a bit of science with greed and came up with a thriller that kept me turning pages into the night. The Back Door Man, by Dave Buschi introduces us to a protagonist caught up in a hacking scheme that threatens him and everything he cares about as we follow his attempts to save us all.
As always a complete review of this book follows this blog.