Select Committee on GRAS Substances (SCOGS) Opinion: L-Glutamic acid and L-glutamates

The GRAS Substances (SCOGS) Database allows access to opinions and conclusions from 115 SCOGS reports published between 1972-1980 on the safety of over 370 Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) food substances. The GRAS ingredient reviews were conducted by the Select Committee in response to a 1969 White House directive by President Richard M. Nixon.

L-Glutamic acid, L-Glutamic acid hydrochloride, Monoammonium L-glutamate, Monopotassium L-glutamate, Monosodium L-glutamate

SCOGS Report Number: 37a and 37a-Supplement
NTIS Accession Number: PB283475 and PB80178635*
Year of Report: 1980
GRAS Substance ID Code

21 CFR Section

L-Glutamic acid 56-86-0 182.1045
L-Glutamic acid hydrochloride 138-15-8 182.1047
Monoammonium L-glutamate 7558-63-6 182.1500
Monopotassium L-glutamate 19473-49-5 182.1516
Monosodium L-glutamate 142-47-2 182.1

SCOGS Opinion:

The Select Committee notes that the new information on long-term oral administration of monosodium glutamate (MSG) in the diet to various animal species has revealed no adverse effects, while data showing neuropathological lesions in neonatal animals resulting from subcutaneous or forced oral dosing of MSG has thus far been confirmed only in rodents. The administration of protein or carbohydrate products concurrently with MSG has been shown to lower plasma glutamate levels, and in two recent studies, to reduce the incidence of hypothalamic lesions in mice. In pregnant monkeys, glutamate does not appear to readily cross the placental barrier. From comparisons of plasma glutamate levels, healthy term and premature infants have already developed the capability to metabolize glutamates.

Ingestion of MSG solutions has been demonstrated to cause transient clinical symptoms resembling those of "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" and there is evidence that some individuals may respond to relatively small doses. Similar symptoms can be evoked by certain other food substances. The use of MSG in restaurant and/or home-prepared foods not fall within the purview of the Select Committee since it is limited in its considerations to the use of glutamates as ingredients of processed foods. According to industry sources, MGS is not added to infant and junior foods. Because, however, a proportion of the consuming public may be sensitive acute responders, even though the unpleasant symptoms are transient, the Selected Committee believes there should be some constraint placed on the addition of MSG to processed foods.

In light of the foregoing studies on the biological effects of monosodium glutamate and the information considered in its previous report on glutamates, the Select Committee concludes that:

There is no evidence in the available information on L-glutamic acid, L-glutamic acid hydrochloride, monosodium L-glutamate, monoammonium L-glutamate, and monopotassium L-glutamate that demonstrates, or suggests reasonable grounds to suspects, a hazard to the public when they are used at levels that are now current and in the manner now practices. However, it is not possible to determine, without additional data, whether a significant increase in consumption would constitute a dietary hazard.

*Complete reports containing details of the safety studies that formed the basis of the opinions and conclusions and are available from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), 5285 Port Royal Road, Springfield, VA 22161 (703) 605-6000.

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