Sue's Blog

129 ways to add MSG and fool consumers

A food savvy friend recently expressed her concern: “It really is up to us to be smarter than food labels. Read them and don't be sucked in, be cynical”.

So author Sue Dengate and her food scientist husband Dr Howard Dengate asked the 10,000 member Food intolerance Network to fan out in the supermarket aisles and be cynical. Altogether, the group found 131 ways that the food industry can now legally hide the flavour enhancer MSG.


Families who thought they had been avoiding MSG realised that they had been eating it every day. “We are a family of four – we all react to MSG with moodiness and picking fights. The day after we've broken our diet it is hard to all live under the same roof.  When we found out that hydrolysed vegetable protein is the same as MSG it made a big difference for us – no more flavoured rice crackers in our house!”

“Food labels are not supposed to be misleading,” say the Dengates, “but we found plenty of consumers who had been misled. People don’t realise that manufacturers have switched from listing additives with numbers to describing them as ingredients.”

Most of these deceptions are being practiced on consumers right now. Food lawyers even run seminars on how to get a “clean” (deceptive) label past the regulators.

How does this work? The food industry preys on our ignorance. MSG is monosodium glutamate. The glutamate provides a flavour enhancing kick so that food made tasteless by overprocessing becomes irresistibly delicious. 

There are lots of ways to break down proteins to release glutamates. Added glutamates then look like an anonymous ingredient in the food. Who would think that “soy protein” or “vegetable protein extract (corn)” or “yeast extract” might be MSG in another form, added legally but avoiding regulation as an additive?

The Dengates will be explaining these food industry tricks, how they affect you and your children, and how to avoid them in upcoming talks: Newcastle, Wyong, Sydney, Canberra, Albury, Melbourne and Gunnedah next week. Booking details at

"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'. They should not also claim 'No (added) MSG' on the packaging as that is designed to mislead." This would be industry best practice.

The aisles to watch out for are the savoury biscuits, the chips and snacks, the noodle soups, and the savoury items in the health food section. If it is savoury, check it out is a good rule. Here are their rules to avoid MSG:

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.


How can I legally add MSG (without saying MSG on the label)? Let me count the ways...

One word
(11 ways)

620, 621, 622, 623, 624, 625, Flavour*, HPP, HVP, Ajinomoto, Yeast* (not baker’s yeast)

Two words (37 ways)

Ammonium glutamate, BBQ flavour, Calcium glutamate , Cheese powder, Chinese salt, Corn protein*, Flavour (gluten), Glutamic acid, Hydrolysed casein, Hydrolysed corn, Hydrolysed maize, Hydrolysed protein, Hydrolysed rice, Hydrolysed soy, Hydrolysed vegetable, Hydrolysed wheat, Hydrolysed yeast, Kelp extract, Magnesium glutamate, Maize protein*, Miso powder, Monoammonium glutamate, Monopotassium glutamate, Monosodium glutamate, Natural flavour*, Nutritional yeast, Plant protein*, Potassium glutamate, Rice protein*, Savoury yeast, Soy protein*, Soy sauce, Umami flavour, Vegetable extract, Vegetable protein*, Wheat protein*, Yeast extract.

Three words (63 ways)

Autolysed yeast extract, Natural flavour soy, Nutritional yeast extract, Savoury yeast flakes, Soy sauce powder, Vegetable extract (maize), Vegetable extract (soy), Vegetable extract (wheat), Yeast extract powder; plus any combination of the words below in groups of 3: Autolysed, Hydrolysed, or Lyophilised with Casein, Corn, Maize, Plant, Rice, Soy, Vegetable, Wheat, or Yeast with Extract or Protein eg Hydrolysed rice extract.

Four words (20 ways)

Dehydrated vegetable seasoning (corn), Dehydrated vegetable seasoning (maize), Dehydrated vegetable seasoning (rice), Dehydrated vegetable seasoning (soy), Dehydrated vegetable seasoning (wheat), , Flavour natural (contains corn), Flavour natural (contains maize), Flavour natural (contains rice), Flavour natural (contains soy), Flavour natural (contains wheat), Plant protein extract (corn), Plant protein extract (maize), Plant protein extract (rice), Plant protein extract (soy), Plant protein extract (wheat), Vegetable protein extract (corn), Vegetable protein extract (maize), Vegetable protein extract (rice), Vegetable protein extract (soy), Vegetable protein extract (wheat).

The list above comprises all legally regulated sources of glutamate, and all known ways in which free glutamates are currently or might be added in Australia and New Zealand, including several (*) which are clearly intended to mislead (eg natural flavour) but are in use by the food industry. In some cases, the presence of MSG-boosters 627, 631 or 635 on the ingredients label were taken as evidence that some other ingredient (eg soy protein) was in a form upon which the boosters could act.

See more informationon MSG and glutamates

Printable single page of 129 forms of glutamate currently in use

Hidden additives

Introduction to food intolerance

Great story on national media by Esther Han, Consumer Affairs Reporter for Fairfax

updated 14 November 2021