You Thought MSG Was Bad? At least they admit that it's in there... well, mostly. Have you picked up a can of soup lately and noticed that the sodium levels are lower? Seen a label that said, "No MSG"? How about realizing that there is less sugar on the label of your favorite ice cream? Believe it or not, this is cause for concern.
This article has been especially hard to compose. "Why?", you may ask. There is simply not much information to be found on the subject. It has taken weeks of internet research to uncover the smidgeon of information that has been acquired.
A relatively young company, Senomyx, may be responsible for the sodium and sugar levels falling in your favorite grocery store item. How are they doing this without affecting the taste? The truth is, they may be putting chemicals into your food right now without you even realizing it and without telling you.
And guess what? They don't have to.
Senomyx has contracted with Kraft, Nestle, Coca Cola, Campbell Soup to put a chemical in foods that masks bitter flavors by turning off bitter flavor receptors on the tongue and enhancing salty and sweet flavors. This would allow the companies to tout claims such as "less sugar" or "lower sodium" by reducing the actual sugar and/or salt by approximately half, but the foods will retain the same level of sweetness or saltiness when they touch the tongue by fooling your brain.
All of the companies, although admitting the exclusive contracting rights, decline to identify which foods and beverages the chemical additives have been or will be added to.
These chemical compounds are not required to be listed separately on food labels. On the contrary, they will be lobbed under the umbrella of "artificial flavors" which is already found on most food labels.
The foods that seem to be most in jeopardy of an insurrection of these new chemicals: soups, juices (fruit and vegetable), ice cream, and sauces.
"We are helping companies clean up their labels," said Kent Snyder, chief executive of Senomyx.
Mark Zoller, Senomyx's chief scientist, says that his company has used the human genome sequence and identified hundreds of taste receptors. Senomyx's chemical compounds enhance those receptors to heighten the taste of salt or sugar. Under this premise, they go on to claim that their newly added chemicals are completely safe because they will be used in tiny quantities of less than one part per million whereas artificial sweeteners are used in 200-500 parts per million. This fact alone allows them to forgo the rigorous FDA approval process when introducing new food additives into the marketplace. Attaining the status of GRAS (generally recognized as safe) from the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association for their most advanced product that replaces MSG, took this fledgling company less than an 18 month time frame by introducing a safety study of rats conducted for 3 months.
Executive Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Michael Jacobson, commended Senomyx's strides to reduce MSG, salt, and sugar but warned against introducing a new chemical additive into the food supply without strenuous testing. "A three-month study is completely inadequate," he said. "What you want is at least a two-year study on several species of animals."
After pouring a total of 30 million dollars into research and development, the companies that have invested into Senomyx's products have been secretive, to say the least, about their involvement within the company. Some, like Kraft, have declined to divulge any specifics regarding their relationship with Senomyx but instead stated that Kraft was committed "to reducing the sugar and salt levels in many products."
Nestle and Coca Cola declined to comment. I think silence says it all.
About the author
Jennifer McKinley is a wife, mother of five, home-schooler, and business owner. She has spent years researching issues dealing with holistic and natural medicine and how different chemicals in our homes, foods, medications, and environments affect our health and quality of life. Her goal is to promote public awareness and knowledge regarding these issues.
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