New Chemical Alternative to MSG That is Coming Soon - Printable Version

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New Chemical Alternative to MSG That is Coming Soon - hilly7 - 01-16-2009

The four basic tastes -- sweet, sour, salty and bitter -- you were taught in grade school were actually incomplete. Your tongue can also taste a fifth basic taste: umami.

Umami is the taste of glutamate, which is a savory flavor found in many Japanese foods, bacon and also the toxic food additive MSG. It is because of umami that foods with MSG taste heartier, more robust and generally better to a lot of people than foods without it.

Despite its ability to enhance flavor, MSG is one of the worst food additives on the market. It is an excitotoxin, which means that it overexcites your cells to the point of damage, acting as a poison.

Fortunately, people are catching on to its dangers, and as such are trying to avoid foods that contain MSG. This is where the food-additive company Senomyx, which employs the chemist who co-authored the above study, comes in.

They are in the business of creating food chemicals and manipulating your taste buds, and are likely hoping to one day develop a chemical that will activate your umami taste receptors.

The company has already developed several chemicals that, although they contain no flavor of their own, activate or block receptors in your mouth that taste. The chemicals can mimic or enhance savory, sweet and salty tastes, and are intended to reduce the use of sugar, salt and MSG in processed foods.

One of Senomyx’s chemicals even causes a “cooling” taste, and we have only just begun to hear about the “innovations” that come from this company.

Senomyx already has 119 patents, and 389 more pending, in the United States, Europe and elsewhere in the world.

You Won’t Know Whether Senomyx’s Chemicals are in Your Food

While at first glance it may seem like a positive step to create processed foods with less sugar, salt or MSG, keep in mind that this is being done with synthetic chemicals.

Senomyx was able to obtain FDA approval and a “generally recognized as safe” classification from the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association in less than a year and a half, based on a safety study of rats conducted for just 3 months.

That’s right: one three-month long study is apparently enough for major food manufacturers to decide that a never-before-used chemical is safe for you and your family to eat.

And these chemical compounds are NOT required to be listed separately on food labels; they are simply grouped into the general category of "artificial flavors." So if you pick up a processed food that has “no MSG,” “less sugar,” or “reduced sodium” it may very well also contain Senomyx’s chemicals, and you’ll have no way of knowing.

Senomyx has entered into collaborations with the following food and beverage companies:

• Ajinomoto Co
• Cadbury
• Campbell Soup Company
• The Coca-Cola Company
• Firmenich SA
• Nestlé
• Solae

So far, Nestle has already begun adding a savory flavor enhancer to some of its bouillon products. And Coca-Cola and Cadbury are planning to begin using Senomyx’s compounds in early 2009.

When it comes to adding synthetic substances like this it would seem obvious that the best strategy is guilty till proven innocent, a variation of the precautionary principle.

I suspect it is relatively harmless in small quantities for most but it is hard to imagine it not moving nearly everyone to some ill health or disease if they regularly used it.

Just Another Reason to Limit Processed Foods

Flavor enhancers that manipulate your taste buds are just one more reason to return your diet to whole, unprocessed foods -- preferably organic and biodynamically grown and locally harvested. Real foods have flavors that your taste buds won’t want to miss, and if you want to add less salt to your homemade soup or stew, or cut the sugar out of your favorite healthy dessert, you can do so without having to replace it with a mystery chemical.

Although it does take a bit more planning and time in the kitchen, preparing food at home, using fresh, locally grown ingredients, will give you better flavor and more health value than any processed food that you could buy at your supermarket.