Three manufacturers of baby food have agreed to suspend the use of monosodium glutamate, a potentially dangerous food flavor enhance, after mounting criticism concerning the safety of the substance.
Dr. Jean Mayer, professor of Nutrition at the School of Public Health, told a Women's National Press Club luncheon last Thursday that high concentrations of the ingredient have caused extensive brain damage in infant mice.
The Food and Drug Administration last week announced its intention to review at least four food additives, including monosodium glutamate, which previously had been classified "Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)."
Dr. Mayer said the affected area of the brain was the hypothalamus, which regulates food and water intake. Dr. Mayer, responding to a question, said. "I would take the damn stuff out of baby food."
The same opinion was expressed independently by Dr. John W. Olney, assistant professor of Psychiatry at the Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. Olney gave infant mice and a rhesus monkey a highly concentrated dosage of MSG and found cell damage in the hypothalamus.
Gerber Criticizes Research
Representatives of the three baby food manufacturers. H. J. Heinz. Beechnut, and Gerber, were critical of the publicity given the substance. Daniel F. Gerber, chief executive officer of Gerber Products Company, expressed doubt that monosodium glutamate had any potential harm for people, or that Dr. Olney's research was applicable to humans.
A representative of H. J. Heinz Company said his firm planned to discontinue use of monosodium glutamate "in full confidence that industry practice will be vindicated".