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E330 – E333 inquiry about adverse reactions from MSG

Question: My husband has a known sensitivity to MSG and associated flavour enhancers but recently he also seems to be reacting to citric acid and other citrates (E330 -E333).

We have the third edition of the chemical maze and in there you indicate that they may provoke symptoms in people sensitive to MSG but this is the only time I have found this information. Everything else I have read seems to indicate that E330 -E333 are safe. I was wondering if you could let me know the reason that some people with sensitivities to MSG might react to citric acid so that we can better understand this puzzle and how to manage it.

Thanks and I think your book is great!

Answer: Hi and thanks for your email. The extract below, explaining the connection between MSG and citric acid, was taken from a website provided by the Weston A. Price Foundation.

The Difficulty in Keeping MSG Free – Health Topics – MSG Updates–Monday, 16 February 2004 21:32

Individuals who suffer adverse reactions from processed free glutamic acid (MSG) vary in their tolerance for the substance. Many MSG-sensitive individuals have found that once sensitized to MSG, their tolerance for MSG decreases over the years, and that it may be lowered by extreme exercise and/or ingestion of any alcohol just prior to or just following MSG ingestion. As the food and chemical industries have developed new food additives that contain MSG, and as the FDA has approved such additives, it has become increasingly difficult for MSG-sensitive individuals to stay healthy, particularly those with little tolerance for the substance. This fact is complicated by the fact that in 1998, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a regulation allowing residues of glutamic acid on all agricultural commodities, providing that the glutamic acid is used as a growth enhancer and that good farming practices are employed (40 Code of Federal Regulations, Section 180.1187). This EPA action allowed the approval of AuxiGro, a pesticide/fertilizer/fungicide that contains 29.2 percent processed free glutamic acid, and legalized the use of at least two fertilizers that contain processed free glutamic acid that occurs as a result of the hydrolysis of proteins. The two fertilizers made with hydrolyzed protein, ?Omega Protein Refined/Hydrolyzed Fish Protein and Steam Hydrolyzed Feather Meal, are used on some organic crops.

The food ingredient ?citric acid? provides us with a good example of why MSG-sensitive people with little tolerance are having difficulty staying well. Many people believe that ?citric acid? comes from citrus fruits, and since most people can tolerate citrus fruits, ?citric acid? should not be a problem. However, most of the ?citric acid? used today is made from corn rather than from citrus fruits. The Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) is a major producer of ?citric acid.? ?Citric acid? is produced by fermentation of crude sugars. When ?citric acid? is produced from corn, manufacturers do not take the time or undertake the expense to remove all corn protein. During processing, the remaining protein is hydrolyzed, resulting in some processed free glutamic acid (MSG). ?Citric acid? may also interacts with any protein in the food to which it is added, freeing up more glutamic acid. A visit to the grocery store to read labels will quickly demonstrate that ?citric acid? is being widely used in processed foods. Its use appears to be increasing and, as this occurs, it appears that, based on interactions with MSG-sensitive individuals, more and more MSG-sensitive people are reacting to ?citric acid.? Its uses in food include flavoring, balancing of acid-alkalinity levels, as a preservative, as a firming agent and as an antibacterial agent. Consumers will find no reference to the presence of free glutamic acid on the labels of foods that contain ?citric acid.? Making it even more difficult for the MSG-sensitive individual, in February of this year, the FDA approved Sanova, an antimicrobial rinse, for use on red meats.

The product, composed of ?sodium chloride? and ?citric acid,? is claimed by its manufacturer, the Alcide Corporation, to kill 99 percent of pathogens on carcasses. Sanova is also approved for use on poultry carcasses, fruits and vegetables. Efforts are underway by the manufacturer to approve the rinse for use on processed foods. Foods treated with Sanova are not required to disclose the fact that ?sodium chloride? and ?citric acid? were used on them. If something is not done soon to redirect the FDA and EPA and begin to control the use of toxic additives in and on our food, health care costs will continue to rise. This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2000. Hope this answers your question.

Kind regards ?Bill Statham

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