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MSG in Infant Formula

By Jack Samuels

From time to time, we are asked whether infant formulas contain processed free glutamic acid (MSG) and processed free aspartic acid – both neurotoxins, particularly toxic to the vulnerable nervous system of the infant.

Results of analyses of five formulas purchased in Canada are shown in Table 1. Brands are listed in alphabetical order. Ingredients of products sold in the United States and other countries may vary. The manufacturer of Enfalac sold in Canada uses the product name Enfamil in the United States.


Test results in milligrams per ounce (oz.)
Aspartic Acid
Glutamic Acid
Carnation Good Start
Enfalac Iron Fortified
Enfalar Nutramigen Hypoallergenic
Isomil Soy Formula
Similac Lactose Free

In a brochure for their Enfalac formula line, Mead Johnson Nutritionals states that infant formula requirements are as follows:

1-week-old infant — 6 to 10 bottles of 2 to 4 oz. formula
3-month-old infant — 4 to 5 bottles of 6 to 8 oz. formula

Taking an average of the formula requirements given by Mead Johnson Nutritionals we find that the average requirements would be:

1-week-old—8 bottles of 3 oz. formula = 24 oz. formula per day
3-month-old—4.5 bottles of 7 oz. formula = 31.5 oz. formula per day

Tables 2 and 3 show the amounts of neurotoxic glutamic acid and neurotoxic aspartic acid that would be ingested daily by an average infant on each of the analyzed formulas for ages 1 week and 3 months.


Grams of aspartic acid and glutamic acid that would be
ingested daily by an average 1-week-old infant
Aspartic Acid
Glutamic Acid
Carnation Good Start
Enfalac Iron Fortified
Enfalac Nutramigen Hypoallergenic
Isomil Soy Formula
Similac Lactose Free


Grams of aspartic acid and glutamic acid that would be
ingested daily by an average 3 month old infant
Aspartic Acid
Glutamic Acid
Carnation Good Start
Enfalac Iron Fortified
Enfalac Nutramigen Hypoallergenic
Isomil Soy Formula
Similac Lactose Free


In so far as we know, there has been no study of quantities of neurotoxic amino acids (glutamic acid, aspartic acid, and L-cysteine) present in infant formula sold in the USA. So we picked two cans of formula off our grocer's shelves to illustrate the fact that formula sold in the USA has its share of MSG-containing ingredients. The ingredients are shown in Table 4. Those known to contain MSG or create MSG during processing are shown in bold. L-cysteine is noted in italics because it, like glutamic acid and aspartic acid, is a neurotoxic amino acid.


Ingredients in infant formula sold in the USA

Nestlé Carnation Good Start (Easy to Digest Comfort proteins): Water, enzymatically hydrolyzed reduced minerals whey protein concentrate (from cows's milk), vegetable oils (palm olein, soy, coconut, high-oleic safflower), lactose, corn maltodextrin. . .

Enfamil Nutramigen Hypoallergenic Formula: Water, corn syrup solids. . . casein hydrolysate, modified corn starch. . . carrageenan, L-cysteine. . .


The Canadian Study leaves no room for doubt that ingredients that contain processed free glutamic acid (MSG) and free aspartic acid — known neurotoxins— are used in baby formula. The fact that neurotoxins are present in baby formula is of particular concern since the blood brain barrier is not fully developed in infants, allowing neurotoxins to be more accessible to the brain than is the case in healthy adults.

The amounts of aspartic acid and glutamic acid found in the formulas analyzed in the Canadian Study have been listed separately in the tables. However, in studies using experimental animals, neuroscientists have found that glutamic acid and aspartic acid load on the same receptors in the brain, cause identical brain lesions and neuroendocrine disorders, and act in an additive fashion.

You will note that the level of neurotoxins found in the hypoallergenic formula was far greater than the level of neurotoxins found in the other formulas. In reviewing the literature on hypoallergenic formulas, we have found short-term studies that concluded that hypoallergenic formulas are safe because babies tolerated them and gained weight. However, we have not seen any long-term studies on the safety of hypoallergenic formulas. We believe that well designed long term studies would demonstrate that infants raised on hypoallergenic formulas, as compared to infants who are breastfed or fed on non-hypoallergenic formulas, will exhibit more learning disabilities at school age, and/or more endocrine disorders, such as obesity and reproductive disorders, later in life. Long-term studies on the effects of hypoallergenic formulas need to be done.

To put these figures in perspective, consider that in an FDA-sponsored study dated July, 1992 entitled "Safety of Amino Acids Used in Dietary Supplements," the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology concluded, in part, that "...it is prudent to avoid the use of dietary supplements of L-glutamic acid by pregnant women, infants, and children. . . and. . . by women of childbearing age and individuals with affective disorders." (MSG is called glutamic acid or L-glutamic acid when used in supplements.)

Consider also, that a press release dated May 27, 1999, which discussed the European Commission marketing authorization for RotaShield(R) Rotavirus Vaccine (since removed from the market) stated, in part, "RotaShield(R) should not be given to infants who are hypersensitive to latex or. . . monosodium glutamate."

During the 1960s, the food ingredient "monosodium glutamate" was routinely added to baby foods. The industry "voluntarily" ceased the practice after Congressional hearings in which concerned researchers warned of serious adverse effects. However, for some years following the elimination of "monosodium glutamate," hydrolyzed proteins were used in place of "monosodium glutamate." Hydrolyzed proteins always contain MSG.

Many consumers now know to avoid baby foods with hydrolyzed proteins. Yet how many parents realize that MSG lurks in every bottle of formula given to their infants? Babies on hypoallergenic formulas receive about 1 gram of total neurotoxins per day, a level at which many MSG-sensitive individuals experience adverse reactions.

NOTE: We wish to express our appreciation to Baby Love Products Inc. of Camrose, Alberta, Canada for obtaining some of the above information. For further information on MSG, see www.truthinlabeling.org.

About the Author
Jack Samuels and his wife, Adrienne Samuels, PhD, are founders of Truth in Labeling, a nonprofit organization dedicated to accurate labeling of MSG and the removal of MSG from use in agriculture. For further information, see their website at www.truthinlabeling.org.

This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts,
the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2001.

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This page was posted on 31 DEC 2001.

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