‘OldBaygate’ — a deception with the potential to spoil any Super Bowl party

Posted by
January 29, 2015




With “Deflategate” having become the main topic of conversation in the days leading up to Super Bowl Sunday, we’d like to take this opportunity to briefly change the subject to one much closer to home for millions of football fans and their families and guests. It’s one we’ve talked about before, but that we thought needed to be reemphasized, if for no other reason than to keep a festive occasion from turning into a fiasco – or worse yet, a visit to the emergency room.

We’ve even given it a name – OldBaygate.

OldBaygate as in Old Bay Seasoning, you might ask?  Well, yes – but not in regard to the seasoning itself. That product, which has been around for 70 years and has long been manufactured by McCormick & Co., is, as far as we can tell, a perfectly benign and healthy one (which, in fact, we often use ourselves).

But that, in fact, is the crux of the issue at the heart of OldBaygate –the trust that so many Americans have in the quality of Old Bay Seasoning and its “unique blend of spices and herbs” that includes celery salt, spices, including mustard, red pepper and black pepper, bay (laurel) leaves, cloves, allspice (pimento), ginger, mace, cardamom, cinnamon and paprika. And the way that trust is being abused by the marketing of a trio of snack items that feature the Old Bay name and logo, along with a depiction of a canister of Old Bay Seasoning — all of which might easily cause many consumers to overlook the fact that they actually contain a neurotoxic additive not found in the actual seasoning.

That additive, the flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate, is one of the ingredients listed in Herr’s Old Bay Seasoned Potato Chips, which the company claims it has been making for more than three decades, as well as its recently introduced Old Bay Seasoned Popcorn and Cheese Curls.  But unless you happen to look at the list of ingredients on the back of the packages, you may think that all you’re getting are chips, cheese curls or popcorn seasoned with “classic” Old Bay (in fact, popcorn is one of the things that the Old Bay canister suggests it be sprinkled on). And that could well spell disaster for anyone who’s especially sensitive to the free glutamic acid in monosodium glutamate, and who ordinarily makes a point of avoiding it.

A little A-fib, anyone?

And there are many good reasons to avoid it.  They include such potential “side effects” as blinding headaches, asthma attacks, nausea, chest pains and even seizures, as well as depression and disorientation. But those aren’t the worst. Monosodium glutamate, as even the American Heart Association acknowledges, can also cause atrial fibrillation, of A-fib, a chaotic heart rhythm that can increase your risk of stroke.

As renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Russell Blaylock explains it, that’s due to the fact that there are numerous glutamate receptors found both in your heart’s electrical conduction system and in the heart muscle itself. And these receptors can be overstimulated by an excess of what are known as “excitoxins,” which include monosodium glutamate and other forms of MSG (such as sodium caseinate and hydrolyzed protein), producing cardiac arrhythmias. These, he notes, can be especially dangerous when magnesium levels are low, as is often the case with athletes, and may even account for incidents of sudden death on the playing field.

And that’s not to mention the fact that such excitotoxins, according to Blaylock and other experts, can be injurious to the brain cells of children and older people without a fully functioning blood-brain barrier.

When we initially contacted Herr’s about this last April after finding Old Bay Seasoned Chips in our local supermarket, Phil Bernas, the company’s vice president for quality assurance, acknowledged to us that that what they were seasoned with was “an entirely different product” than Old Bay Seasoning – and that the “total seasoning package” used in the chips was supplied by McCormick, not Herr’s.

Old Bay itself, in other words, is apparently the same seasoning it’s always been. But the flavor of those “Old Bay Seasoned” snack items is “enhanced” with something entirely different – an additive with the potential to transform the high spirits of a Super Bowl party into high anxiety, and even land you, a family member or a guest in the ER.

So we strongly advise you to steer clear of these spurious snacks just as you would any other foods in which monosodium glutamate and other excitotoxins are present. It’s the one way you can make sure OldBaygate doesn’t end up deflating your plans for the big game.