Controversial Ingredients

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

Published on Thursday, 31 May 2012 00:29

What is Monosodium Glutamate?

Monosodium glutamate, (MSG), is used as a food additive and flavor enhancer. MSG is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, an amino acid occurring naturally in protein and in the human body. Glutamic acid is a neurotransmitter and causes nerve cells to fire. In its natural state, it is non-harmful. During food processing free-glutamic acids are produced and added to foods, it is this byproduct that may cause adverse reactions in the body.

Are MSG and Hydrolyzed Protein related?

YES.  From the FDA Website:

Hydrolyzed proteins, used by the food industry to enhance flavor, are simply proteins that have been chemically broken apart into amino acids. The chemical breakdown of proteins may result in the formation of free glutamate that joins with free sodium to form MSG. In this case, the presence of MSG does not need to be disclosed on labeling. Labeling is required when MSG is added as a direct ingredient.

This means that products can contain MSG without disclosing that they contain MSG.

Does MSG pose a health risk or concern?

There is no proven evidence that indicates MSG causes serious illness and health conditions.

Some people can have an allergy, an intolerance, or a sensitivity to MSG.  In an intolerance or sensitivity there is no immune response and the symptoms are mild. Some small amount of MSG may be tolerated if consumed. If an allergy is present, there is an immune response and no amount of MSG is tolerable.  According to medical journals, there is no conclusive scientific evidence that suggests an allergy or sensitivity to MSG alone exists.

Typical Symptoms of free Glutamic Acid sensitivities:

  • Headache/Migraines
  • Depression, mood swings
  • Flushing
  • Sweating
  • Sense of facial pressure or tightness
  • Numbness, tingling or burning around mouth
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Chest pain
  • Asthma
  • Swelling
  • Skin rash
  • Anxiety
  • Hyperactivity
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Stiffness
  • Joint pain

Ingredients to Avoid:

  • Glutamate
  • Monosodium glutamate
  • Monopotassium glutamate
  • Yeast extract
  • Hydrolyzed protein (any)
  • Glutamic acid
  • Calcium caseinate
  • Sodium caseinate
  • Yeast food
  • Hydrolyzed corn gluten
  • Gelatin
  • Textured protein
  • Yeast nutrient
  • Autolyzed yeast
  • Natrium glutamate

Ingredients often containing MSG:

  • Carrageen (Seaweed)
  • Bouillon and broth
  • Stock
  • Whey protein, whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate
  • “Flavors” or “flavoring”
  • Natural flavors and flavoring
  • Natural pork, beef or chicken flavoring
  • Maltodextrin
  • Citric acid
  • Ultra-pasteurized
  • Barley malt
  • Pectin
  • Protease and protease enzyme
  • Enzyme modified
  • Anything containing enzymes
  • Malt extract
  • Soy protein isolate
  • Soy sauce and soy sauce extract
  • Soy protein, soy protein isolate and soy protein concentrate
  • Protein fortified
  • Anything fermented
  • Seasoning
  • Pea protein
  • Whey protein
  • Corn protein
  • Wheat protein
  • Soy protein
  • Wine (sprayed on wine grapes)
  • Food labels that falsely advertise “no MSG”
  • Baby food
  • Dietary supplements
  • Medications/drugs
  • Protein bars and protein powders
  • Vaccines
  • Fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides
  • Kosher food
  • Cosmetics
  • Some organic foods
  • Foods from restaurants or fast food restaurants
  • Items with cheese powder in them (cheese flavored snacks)
  • Flavored or salty snacks/chips
  • Deli meats
  • Canned foods/canned soups
  • Packaged foods
  • Diet sodas


At parties go for the raw veggies and avoid dipping them. Dips often contain MSG.

If you are attending an event make your own side dish or appetizer from scratch, this way you can still bring a dish and feel safe about eating it.

Eat at home as much as possible and cook your own fresh ingredients. Eating at restaurants gives you a greater risk of having a reaction since the majority of their food will contain MSG.

If you want to enjoy dairy, look for plain pasteurized whole milk. Use this in your coffee instead of coffee creamers, non-fat and low-fat milks.  Ultra-pasteurized foods like cheeses, creams and half and half often have carrageen added to them.

Chinese restaurants often have MSG in their food; however, there are some that advertise they do not put MSG in their food. Order steamed dishes without the sauces to avoid MSG.