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MSG FAQs

MSG FAQs

General Questions

Safety Questions

 

SAFETY QUESTIONS

1.
Is MSG safe?
2.
What is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's view of MSG?
3.
Who has reviewed MSG safety research?
4.
How can I tell if MSG is added to foods?
5.
Can MSG be listed under any other names on food labels?
6.
Could MSG make me sick if I eat too much of it?
7.

Are some people allergic to MSG?

8.
Can MSG cause asthma attacks?
9.
Is MSG safe for pregnant women?
10.
Is MSG safe for children?
11.
Can MSG cause headaches?

1. Is MSG safe?
Yes. MSG has been used for nearly 100 years and is one of the most thoroughly tested food ingredients. Food and health authorities worldwide, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have confirmed that the use of monosodium glutamate is safe for the general population.

2. What is the FDA's view of MSG?
Since 1958, the FDA has classified monosodium glutamate as GRAS ("Generally Recognized As Safe"), placing it in the same category as salt, pepper, vinegar and baking powder. This means that MSG is safe for its intended use.

In the early 1990s, as part of the periodic safety review that all GRAS ingredients undergo, the FDA asked the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) to review the accumulated science on MSG safety. FASEB's report, released in 1995, reaffirmed the safety of monosodium glutamate for the general population.

3. Who has reviewed MSG safety research?
In addition to the FDA, a number of international scientific, medical and regulatory organizations have reviewed the scientific research on MSG safety and have found MSG to be safe. Some of these organizations include:

  • the American Medical Association (AMA)
  • the United Nations' FAO/WHO Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA)
  • the Scientific Committee for Food of the European Communities

4. How can I tell if MSG is added to foods?
Reading the food's label will tell you if MSG has been added. The U.S. FDA regulations require the words "monosodium glutamate" to be present on the ingredient statement of the label if MSG has been added to the food.

5. Can MSG be listed under any other names on food labels?
No. According to FDA regulations, when MSG is added to a food the ingredient statement must include the words "monosodium glutamate." However, the amino acid glutamate is contributed to foods by many ingredients, such as soy sauce and hydrolyzed vegetable protein. In addition, there are many natural sources of the glutamate.

6. Could MSG make me sick if I eat too much of it?
No. First, there's no indication that consuming even large amounts of MSG would cause one to feel sick. Secondly, using too much MSG in a food actually can make the food taste worse—not better. Therefore, it's unlikely you'd ever want to eat food that contains excess MSG.

Because it is a self-limiting substance, food processors use the least amount of MSG necessary for maximum flavor impact. In most cases, this means that processed foods contain only 0.1 to 0.8 percent of the food's weight as served. In the kitchen, this translates to one-half teaspoon of MSG per pound of meat or 4-6 servings of vegetables, casserole or soup.


7. Are some people allergic to MSG?
No. MSG is not an allergen. In 1991, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology concluded that MSG is not a food allergen, and severe reactions are not associated with consumption of the ingredient. It is possible that some people may be sensitive to MSG, just as people are to many other foods.

If you think you have a food allergy, it's important to get a professional diagnosis from a board-certified allergist (preferably one with a specialty in food allergies). Relying on self-diagnosis could lead to unnecessary food restrictions and, more importantly, cause you to ignore or miss another important health problem.

8. Can MSG cause asthma attacks?
No. Research results have consistently failed to implicate MSG in causing or exacerbating asthma attacks. Most recently, in 1999, researchers at the Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation found that none of their patients, including those who believed they were sensitive to MSG, experienced asthmatic attacks or any symptoms of asthma in response to either MSG or a placebo. These findings back up the results from an earlier Scripps study, as well those from Harvard Medical School, the National Institutes of Health, the Monash Medical School in Australia and Beth Israel Hospital.

9. Is MSG safe for pregnant women?
Yes. If you're pregnant, you can feel confident about consuming foods containing monosodium glutamate. Because pregnancy is such an important time for you and your unborn child, extensive scientific research has been conducted to make sure that MSG is safe for both of you. No studies have ever found MSG to cause problems with reproduction, birth or the fetus itself.

In addition, MSG is safe for lactating mothers and breast-feeding infants, too. The American Academy of Pediatrics finds that MSG has no effect on lactation and poses no risk to infants. As a matter of fact, Mother Nature must agree that glutamate is important for breastfeeding infants, as human breast milk contains about 10 times more glutamate than cow's milk!

10. Is MSG safe for children?
Yes. Scientific evidence shows that MSG is safe for people of any age, including children. In June 1991, the European Communities Scientific Committee for Food stated, "Infants, including prematures, have been shown to metabolize glutamate as efficiently as adults and therefore do not display any special susceptibility to elevated oral intakes of glutamate." If your child's favorite foods contain MSG, you can feel assured that the ingredient is as safe for kids as it is for adults.

11. Does MSG cause headaches?
No. Reports that MSG is a vasoactive substance, meaning it constricts or dilates blood vessels, thereby producing headaches, have never been confirmed in a scientifically controlled study.

There are many alleged "triggers" for headaches, including diet and stress, and a wide array of foods have been implicated as headache triggers. However, a 1990 critical review of the literature on food-triggered headaches concluded that the relationship is controversial. The review also stated that there is no evidence to support an association between MSG and migraine headaches.

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