Myth: I read that MSG is not good for your health.
Fact: MSG is safe.
MSG is one of the most extensively researched food ingredients. Following are just some of the safety affirmations by world leading authorities.
- Monosodium glutamate has been classified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) ingredient since 1958. This is the safest classification a food ingredient can be given in the United States, along with pepper, sugar, vinegar and baking powder.
- In 1987, the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA)1 was so convinced of MSG’s safety that the Committee established an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of “not specified” for international standards purposes. This is JECFA’s best classification for food additives.
- The Council on Scientific Affairs of the American Medical Association issued a resolution in 1992 supporting MSG’s safety.
- The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), a leading independent scientific organization, reaffirmed MSG’s safety in an FDA-commissioned comprehensive review in an August 1995 report.
- The Scientific Committee for Food of the commission of the European Communities evaluated leading-edge research on MSG in 1991, establishing an “ADI not specified” rating.
1JECFA is a prestigious scientific advisory body to the WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION (WHO) and the FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL ORGANISATION (FAO) of the UNITED NATIONS.
Myth: MSG is artificial.
Fact: It is a natural flavour enhancer.
The FASEB has stated that: “The nature of L-glutamic acid (glutamate) is the same regardless of the source, i.e. free or protein bound in foods, manufactured as MSG, or as a component of hydrolyzed vegetable proteins.” There is therefore no inherent difference between natural glutamate and MSG.
MSG is made using a fermentation process similar to that used for beer, wine, soy sauce and vinegar. The most common source for the fermentation is molasses from sugar cane. Microorganisms convert sugar to glutamate in the fermentation process.
Myth: l’m allergic to MSG.
Fact: MSG is not an allergen.
Numerous studies have examined whether MSG in foods triggers allergic reactions. In 1991, the American College of Allergy and Immunology issued a position paper on the issue. The document concluded that MSG is not an allergen and that severe reactions have nothing to do with this ingredient. FASEB’s August 1995 report also stated that MSG is not an allergen.
Myth: MSG is a tenderizer or preservative that makes poor quality food better, right?
Fact: Far from it…
MSG is neither tenderizer nor preservative. It cannot make inferior food taste better. It is simply a natural flavour enhancer.
Myth: MSG causes hair loss.
The components of MSG, that is Glutamate (88%), Sodium and Water, are common and abundant in nature. Human body and our common foods contain these substances. Various factors can cause hair loss, such as genetic and ageing, hormonal changes, illness, medications, emotional and physical stress, radiation therapy etc. Anyone suffering from severe hair loss should get an expert advice rather than listen to hearsay.
Myth: I have to avoid MSG as it causes excessive sodium intake.
Fact: On the contrary, MSG can help in reducing salt due to its Umami taste contribution to foods.
MSG does contain sodium. So do many other foods. MSG usage in food is for its Umami taste (Chinese: Xian-Wei, English: Savoury). Human sensory tests have shown that when the salt level in food is reduced, food acceptability decreases. However, by using a small amount of MSG, salt intake can be reduced by as much as 20 to 30 percent as MSG maintains food palatability due to its Umami taste contribution. The taste of MSG has a self-limiting characteristic. Once proper amount is used, additional use contributes little, if anything at all, to food flavour. Generally, MSG should comprise 0.1 to 0.8 percent of a dish.
Myth: MSG causes headache.
MSG does not constrict or dilate blood vessels to cause headache. An extensive literature review found no evidence to support an association between MSG and migraine.
Myth: “No MSG Added” label means product contains no MSG.
Fact: NOT TRUE.
Some manufacturers use “clean labels”, i.e., labels that contain only ingredient names they think consumers will not recognize as containing MSG — names such as “hydrolyzed soy protein”, “yeast extracts”, etc, while others advertise “No MSG,” “No MSG Added,” or “No Added MSG,” even though their products contain MSG.
Placing “No MSG,” “No MSG Added,” or “No Added MSG” on food labels has been deemed by the USFDA to be false and misleading under Section (403)(a)(1) of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act when the label also lists any form of hydrolyzed protein as an ingredient (since it contains MSG).
USFDA announced in 1995 that “…FDA considers foods whose labels say “No MSG” or “No Added MSG” to be misleading if the food contains ingredients that are sources of free glutamates, such as hydrolyzed protein, yeast extracts, cheese, tomato, etc.
Thus, to advertise “No MSG,” “No MSG Added,” or “No Added MSG” when there is processed free glutamic acid in a product is not right. Those making such claims should be able to demonstrate, through valid tests for free glutamic acid content, that there is no (zero) free glutamic acid in their products.
However, in reality, it is almost impossible for regular products/ingredients not to contain free glutamic acid. Although a product may claim it does not contain any MSG or MSG-containing ingredients, any ingredients that contain even a bit of protein can be hydrolyzed (through heat, enzymes, acid, etc), causing free glutamic acid (and thus, MSG) to be released.