What is MSG?
MSG stands for monosodium glutamate, which is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, a naturally occurring non-essential amino acid. It is also known as sodium glutamate. Food manufacturers market and use MSG as a flavor enhancer because it balances, blends, and rounds the total perception of other tastes.
How is MSG made?
MSG is made by bacterial fermentation in a process similar to that of wine, vinegar, and yogurt. During fermentation, selected bacteria are cultured with ammonia and carbohydrates from sugar beets, sugar cane, tapioca, or molasses. The bacteria then excretes amino acids into the culture broth, and that is where L-glutamate becomes isolated.
Why is MSG an issue for some individuals?
Reactions to MSG are dependent on the dose. Some people can react to even very small amounts. MSG-induced reactions may occur immediately after ingestion or as much as 48 hours later. The time lapse between ingestion and reaction is typically the same each time for a particular individual who ingests an amount of MSG that exceeds his or her individual tolerance level. Symptoms may include:
- facial pressure or tightness
- Numbness, tingling, or burning in the face, neck, and other areas
- rapid, fluttering heartbeats
- chest pain
The following foods often contain MSG:
- Low-fat and fat-free milk products
- Yogurt, cream, cream cheese, cottage cheese
- Dairy products containing carrageenan, guar gum, and/or locust bean gum
- Low-fat and fat-free versions of ice cream and cheese
- Protein powders containing hydrolyzed soy protein, hydrolyzed wheat protein, hydrolyzed pea protein, hydrolyzed whey protein, or hydrolyzed corn protein
- Drinks, candy, and chewing gum are also potential sources of hidden MSG
Information provided by the Truth in Labeling Campaign.