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Hidden MSG: Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein

Published on Tuesday, 08 October 2013 18:18

There are several different ingredients that can be used in process food products that contain free glutamic acid – the essential component of Monosodium Glutamate.  The thing to keep in mind is that since those ingredients aren’t MSG, there is no requirement that they be labeled as such.  So it’s up to us as conscious consumers who are nutritionally aware to understand which ingredients act like MSG, even though they technically aren’t.

One such ingredient is hydrolyzed vegetable protein (or for that matter hydrolyzed anything).  Hydrolyzed proteins are produced by boiling cereal or legumes in hydrochloric acid and then neutralizing the solution with sodium hydroxide.  The acid hydrolyzes (breaks down) the proteins into amino acids.  What’s left is a dark colored liquid that contains glutamic acid (the main component of MSG).

Like MSG, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein is used as a flavor enhancer in processed foods.  It is used to impart a richer, more savory flavor to the product in which it is used.  You’ll find this ingredient in products like hot dogs, gravies, dips, dressings, soups, and stews, to name a few.  In addition, it is used as an ingredient in spice blends and seasoning mixes used to prepare homemade foods.

If a consumer is sensitive to Monosodium Glutamate, any ingredient containing free glutamic acid will produce the same responses.  Symptoms can include migraines, headaches, vision difficulties, gastrointestinal difficulties, behavioral problems, breathing difficulties, rash, anxiety attacks and disturbances in heart rhythm. 

One of the problems with this ingredient is that consumers who aren’t nutritionally aware may not associate it with a controversial ingredient.  They’re reading “Vegetable Protein”.  They don’t necessarily understand the term “Hydrolyzed”.  And let’s face it, they have no idea that in order to hydrolyze something there’s hydrochloric acid involved that’s working to break down the vegetable protein into glutamic acid. 

It’s important to become educated regarding the hidden sources of MSG.  Food manufacturers understand that consumers want to avoid Monosodium Glutamate and they are required to label the ingredient.  The problem is that they feel that a product’s flavor still needs to be enriched so they are turning to other flavor enhancers which consumers don’t necessarily relate to MSG.   The more educated food consumers can become, the less food manufacturers will be able to pass off ingredients like Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein as harmless or healthy.

Visit The Rak Foundation for Nutritional Awareness for more information on how we can change the way America eats!