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What is MSG?


The most-searched google term in Australia in 2017 was “What is MSG?”.

No wonder, since so much food labelling boasts “No added MSG” while in fact hiding the active free glutamate flavour enhancer from consumers in over 129 sneaky ways.

But in India the huge food company Nestle was hauled into court and had to remove this claim because of

"misleading labelling information on the package reading 'No added MSG'”

Under Indian regulations, foods with any ingredient that naturally contains MSG cannot add a label “No added MSG” on their packaging, as this could give a misleading impression that the product contains no MSG.

This is where Nestle went wrong in India and it has agreed to remove the ‘No added MSG’ claim on their packaging.

Maggi, Nestle India's single-largest revenue earner, was banned in June 2015 for six months across India on allegations that it contained chemicals such as lead beyond prescribed limits and on other charges including some about MSG. The company had to recall 38,000 tonnes of Maggi noodles from millions of retail shelves and destroy them. The ban was relaxed in November 2015.

But the ‘No added MSG’ claim remains everywhere in Australia. 

Our food regulator FSANZ has given up on regulating the many ways that free glutamates are added to food, settling for regulating just six white powder forms. Appeals to the Australian consumer protection agency ACCC for consumers to be informed about what is in their food have been bounced to FZANZ and back again to ACCC for years.  Nobody in authority is willing to take on the powerful and litigious USA Glutamate Association or the shadowy Australian Glutamate Information Service.

While free glutamates are naturally present in many foods, consumers are being actively misled about the ADDED levels in products strongly labelled as “no added MSG”.

"Consumers shouldn't have to remember over 129 names of ingredients if they are trying to avoid glutamates. Instead, all food companies should follow the consumer-friendly ones and make the simple statement on their ingredient panels 'May contain naturally occurring or other forms of added glutamates' said Dr Howard Dengate of the Food Intolerance Network.

“Manufacturers should not be allowed to claim 'No (added) MSG' on the packaging when glutamates are added as that is actively misleading."


What can you do to avoid or limit MSG?

The aisles to watch out for are the savoury biscuits, the chips and snacks, the noodle soups, and the tasty items in the health food section.

If it is tasty, check it out

Rule 1: if the packaging says anywhere ‘no added MSG’ then it is very likely that there IS added MSG in another form.


Rule 2: if the ingredients label includes any of the following, there is CERTAINLY added MSG in one form or another:  627, 631, 635, ribonucleotides, nucleotides, disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate, disodium 5'-ribonucleotides.


Rule 3: if the label includes an ingredient name made from some of the following words (yeast extract, hydrolysed vegetable/ soy/wheat/maize/corn/rice/plant  protein) so like  this: “vegetable protein extract (corn)”, SUSPECT added MSG and see our post  129 ways to hide MSG

“I am a food technologist  … I have sat in technical meetings discussing what to call the MSG that we want to put in a product“
from story [1246]

Why would you want to avoid or limit MSG?

Industry funded research will seek to convince you that MSG is always safe, but some people react badly to it and want to know if it is in their food. If the dose is high enough, many will react to this brain signalling chemical, as this German study showed:

"After eating a soup 10 persons (out of 100) fell sick; within 10 minutes they suffered from nervous muscle convulsions, trembling, mouth desiccation and dilation of the pupils. The soup contained glutamate as flavour enhancer in an unusually high concentration of 31 grams per litre".

More reading

Top Google searches in 2017 http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-30/google-quiz:-can-you-guess-the-top-search-trends-of-2017/9291976

Could MSG be good for you? http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/blueprintforliving/is-msg-good-for-you3f/6816278 Opinions of a dietician and a food writer, cook and TV presenter where the extraordinary claim is made that the ‘umami’ taste from glutamates means that you eat less salt, fat and sugar that are known to be bad for you, therefore it is good for you.  For a scientific refutation see https://fedup.com.au/news/blog/msg-belly-fat

129 ways to hide MSG and fool consumers https://www.fedup.com.au/news/blog/129-ways-to-add-msg-and-fool-consumers

Glutamate industry lobbyists https://msgfacts.com/ and  http://www.glutamate.org.au/

Soup wars in India https://www.reuters.com/article/nestle-india-court/indian-court-slaps-nestle-india-with-fine-over-substandard-noodles-idUSL3N1NZ3IC


No added MSG': How labelling cooked Maggi's goose http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/no-added-msg-claim-did-maggi-in/article7313318.ece  

'Remove misleading label on MSG from Maggi packs' https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Remove-misleading-label-on-MSG-from-Maggi-packs/articleshow/47570950.cms


German research on MSG Beitr Gerichtl Med. 1989;47:69-71. [Glutamic acid group poisoning. So-called Chinese restaurant syndrome]. [Article in German] Rudin O, Stauffer E, Cramer Y, Krämer M. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2573344

MSG factsheet https://fedup.com.au/factsheets/additive-and-natural-chemical-factsheets/621-msg-msg-boosters-flavour-enhancers-and-natural-glutamates

MSG boosters factsheet https://fedup.com.au/factsheets/additive-and-natural-chemical-factsheets/635-msg-boosters-ribo-rash-ribonucleotides-627-631


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Food intolerance

Some of the many symptoms of food intolerance that can be helped by diet:

Airways: Asthma, Stuffy blocked or runny nose/ nasal polyps, Frequent nose bleeds, Catarrh, chronic throat-clearing, Sinusitis, Frequent ear infections, Frequent tonsillitis, Frequent colds and flu, symptoms of Samter's Triad, hayfever, allergic rhinitis Skin: Eczema, Urticaria (hives), Cradlecap, Other skin rashes, Angioedema (swollen lips, eyes, tongue), Geographic tongue, Pruritis (itching), Rosaceae, Allergic shiners (dark circles under eyes), Pallor (pale skin), Flushing, Excessive sweating, Body odour, Sore vagina in children, Alopecia (patchy baldness) Digestive system: Irritable bowel symptoms (IBS), Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), Recurrent mouth ulcers, Indigestion, Nausea, Bad breath, Vomiting, Diarrhea, Stomach ache, Bloating, Reflux in babies, adults, Constipation, Colic in babies, adults, Sluggish bowel syndrome (feeling of "more to come"), Encopresis, Soiling (sneaky poos), Dairy intolerance, Gluten and wheat intolerance, Eating disorders (ed), anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder (BED)  Bladder: Bedwetting, Daytime incontinence, Urinary urgency, Recurrent inflammation (cystitis) Skeletal: Growing pains, Gout, Arthritis, joint pain, arthralgia Eyes: Nystagmus (involuntary movement), Blurred vision Muscles: Low muscle tone, Myalgia (muscle pain), Tics (involuntary movement), Tremor, Leg 'jiggling', Heart: Rapid heart beat, Heart palpitations, Cardiac arrhythmias, Pseudo heart attack (feeling of impending doom, chest pressure, pain down arm), Tachycardia (fast heart beat), Angina-type pain, HHT Central nervous system: Headaches or migraines, unexplained tiredness, Chronic fatigue, Feeling 'hung-over', Confusion, Dizziness, Agitation, Tinnitus (noises in ear), HyperacusisAuditory sensory processing disorder (ASPD), Paraesthesia (pins and needles), Dysaesthesia (numbness), Hypoglycemia, Salicylate-induced hypoglycemia, Epileptic seizures, Fits, Sensory symptoms of multiple sclerosis, Scents and perfume sensitivity, Symptoms of lupus Anxiety: Panic attacks, Depression, Obsessive ruminations (repetitively focusing on bad feelings and experiences from the past), Self harm, Suicidal thoughts, actions, teeth grinding (bruxism) Impaired memory: Vague or forgetful, Unable to concentrate, Won't persevere, Unmotivated, Disorganised, Easily distracted, Difficulty reading and writing Speech: Loud voice (no volume control), Speech hard to understand, Speech delay, Selective mutism, Stuttering, Repetitive noises, Talks too much (empty chatter) Coordination: Poor handwriting, Poor coordination, Frequent accidents, Vertigo Sleep: Difficulty falling asleep, Restless legs syndrome (RLS), Persistent night waking, Insomnia, Nightmares/night terrors/sleepwalking, Sleepless babies, Sleep apnoea Mood: Brain snaps, Mood swings, Premenstrual tension, Grizzly or unhappy, Cries easily or often, Irritable, Uncooperative Oppositional defiance: ODD, Loses temper, Argumentative, Refuses requests, Defies rules, Deliberately annoys others, Blames others for own mistakes, Touchy, easily annoyed, Angry, resentful Other behaviour: ADHD, ADD, Autism, Aspergers, Inattentive, easily bored, unmotivated, 'Unable to entertain himself', Restless, fidgety or overactive, Head banging, Hyperactivity, Fights with siblings, Difficulty making friends, Destructive, aggressive, Unreasonable, Tantrums, Demanding, never satisfied, Disruptive, Discipline is ineffective, Pervasive Development Disorder

Some causes of food intolerance:

Food additives: Artificial colours: (food dyes, artificial colors) tartrazine 102 (E102, FD&C Yellow No.5), quinoline yellow 104 (E104), sunset yellow 110 (E110, FD&C Yellow No.6), azorubine, carmoisine 122 (E122), amaranth 123 (E123), ponceau, brilliant scarlet 124 (E124), erythrosine 127 (E127, FD&C Red No.3), allura red 129 (E129, FD&C Red No.40), indigotine, indigo carmine 132 (E132, FD&C Blue No.2), brilliant blue 133 (E133, FD&C Blue No.1), green S, food green, acid brilliant green 142 (E142), fast green FCF 143 (E143, FD&C Green No.3), brilliant black 151 (E151), brown, chocolate brown 155 (E155)  Natural colours: (colors) Annatto (annatto extracts, bixin, norbixin, 160b, E160b) Preservatives: Sorbates: (sorbic acid 200, E200, sodium sorbate 201, E201, potassium sorbate 202, E202, calcium sorbate 203, E203) Benzoates, hydroxybenzoates, parabens: (including benzoic acid 210, E210, sodium benzoate 211, E211, potassium benzoate 212, E212, calcium benzoate 213, E213, ethyl para-hydroxybenzoate 214, E214, sodium ethyl para-hydroxybenzoate 215, E215, propylparaben 216, E216, propyl 4 hydroxybenzoate 217, E217, methylparaben 218, E218) Sulfites, bisulfites, metabisulfites: (200-228, sulphites, sulphur dioxide, sulfur dioxide 220, E220, sodium sulphite 221, E221, sodium bisulphite 222, E222, sodium metabisulphite 223, E223, potassium metabisulphite 224, E224, potassium sulphite 225, E225, calcium sulphite 226, E226, calcium bisulfite 227, E227, potassium bisulphite 228, E228) Nitrates & nitrites: (249-252, potassium nitrite 249, E249, sodium nitrite 250, E250, sodium nitrate 251, E251, potassium nitrate 252, E252 Propionates: (bread preservative, mould inhibitor 280-283: propionic acid 280, E280, sodium propionate 281, E281, calcium propionate 282, E282, potassium propionate 283, E283, 'natural' preservatives in bread, cultured or fermented wheat, dextrose, sugar, flour, whey or anything) Synthetic antioxidants: Gallates 310, 311, 312 (E310, E311, E312), tBHQ 319, E319, BHA 320, E320, BHT 321, E321 Flavour enhancers: (flavor enhancers) glutamic acid and all glutamates, MSG monosodium glutamate 620-625, yeast extract, hydrolysed vegetable protein HVP, disodium guanylate 627 (E627, DSG, GMP), disodium inosinate 631 (E631, DSI, IMP), ribonucleotides 635 (E635, I&G, nucleotides)  Flavours: (flavors)  Natural food chemicals: Salicylates: salicylic acid, sodium salicylate, acetylsalicylic acid Biogenic amines: vasoactive amines (tyramine, phenylethylamine, histamine and others) Glutamates:  Natural foods: Dairy: milk, yoghurt, cheese, butter, lactose-free milks Wheat or Gluten: (wheat, rye, barley, oats) Soy: Sugar free sweeteners:Sugar free sweeteners: polyols, sorbitol, mannitol

On this website, failsafe refers to foods that are Free of Additives and Low in Salicylates, Amines and Flavour Enhancers. Note that copyright applies to the commercial use of the term "failsafe" in the food and health context so as to control inappropriate use by the food and health industries.