Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is the salt of glutamic acid, an amino acid. MSG is mainly used to enhance the flavour of foods. MSG is created by fermenting potatoes, rice and corn. While MSG does not enhance the four basic taste (sour, bitter, sweet, salty) it does however enhance the other complex flavours of vegetables, poultry, meat and even seafood. MSG has been an integral part of many cuisines particularly in China and Japan and is used all over the world in the preparation of various foods. MSG is naturally available in high concentrations in Parmesan cheese and tomatoes.
MSG comes in a lot of processed foods and snacks, ergo, consumers need to get into the habit of checking for MSG. Monosodium Glutamate does not occur naturally in whole foods, so you don’t have to worry about your bananas, apples and such. Also, manufacturers are required to state on their food labels if their product has MSG content on it. Unfortunately, it may fall on different titles making it very difficult for consumers to keep track of which foods contain the additives or not.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has categorized MSG as a food ingredient that is “generally recognized safe for use”, however, the use of MSG is riddled still with controversy. Over the years, the FDA has been receiving reports linking MSG use to the occurrence of these side effects to people which include
- Facial numbness or tingling sensation at the neck and other areas
- Chest pain
Mostly the negative publicity of MSG stemmed from the Chinese restaurant syndrome which first came into the mainstream back in 1968 when people who ate Chinese food laden with MSG have experienced different symptoms including those that are written above.
Research acknowledged however that the manifestations of these symptoms amongst people are usually mild and does not require any medical attention. The more detrimental side effects perhaps might be cumulative over time and with subsequent exposure to MSG. Therefore the only way to avoid any adverse reactions to MSG is to steer away from it.