This Melbourne person ended up in hospital with a severe reaction after eating a veggie burger and soy sauce containing flavour enhancer 635, a booster for MSG.

This additive was approved for use in Australia without any scientific evidence and has caused severe itchy rashes and a wide range of other serious symptoms in hundreds of people. Numerous attempts to get the food regulator FSANZ to examine the issue have been met with silence.

Here is Graeme's story.

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"I bought a veggieburger at the supermarket based on 'natural', fresh' etc labelling.  It contained 635. Fortunately, I only had one.  Within a couple of hours I was having difficulty breathing because of angiodema - swollen lips, tongue and throat.  Hospitalisation and steroids with antihistamines reduced the swelling, but several weeks later I am still having problems.  I have never had an allergy problem, despite being very adventurous with food.

"In addition to the veggieburger, I used some soy sauce on it and that contained 635, and had eaten some savoury biscuits earlier in the day that also contained 635. Presumably that was enough to push past the danger level.

"It is madness that we are allowing these contaminants into our food willy nilly.  The photo was taken after several hours of treatment with hydrocortisone and antihistamine."

Since this additive was approved by the national food regulator FSANZ (Food Standards Australia New Zealand) in the mid 1990's, there have been hundreds of reports of serious side-effects, mostly severe itchy rashes that have caused hospitalisation and years of suffering.

Unfortunately, many health professionals are unaware of the role of food additives in causing these problems.

These reports have been collected by the voluntary Food Intolerance Network and provided several times to FSANZ without response.

Sometimes there are reports of serious reactions as with Graeme.

Of particular concern is that often people then develop a range of allergies that they have never had before as a result of exposure to this flavour enhancer booster, which is found in many tasty and savoury products like crisps and chips. It is conceivable that the startling rise in allergies in Australia has been triggered in part by this booster.

Flavour enhancer 635 is a mixture of 627 and 631 and is called 'ribonucleotide' or more chemical names such as disodium guanylate and disodium inosinate. It is added to boost the effects of added or natural glutamates such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) by a factor of 10-15 times and appears to boost adverse reactions in the same proportion.

People who react to 635 regard it as the crystal meth of flavour enhancers. It needs to be banned or at the very least subjected to a rigorous scientific evaluation as the Food Standards Act requires.

Factsheet on 635 flavour enhancers