Nutrition Insight

NutriPro Umami - MSG: A controversial source of umami

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The fears and the facts

MSG has been used as a food additive around the world since the early 1900s. Most packaged foods contain some type of additives, which are used to make them taste fresh longer, make them look more appealing, increase their availability, or make them easier to prepare.


MSG & E numbers

The European Union (EU) developed the E number system to identify additives in 1984. The system is also used in Australia, New Zealand, the Cooperation Council for the Arab States in the Gulf, Israel and on European food products exported to North America. Some consumers are uneasy about foods with E numbers, claiming links to disorders such as hyperactivity, allergies, and food intolerance, but these claims do not have a scientific basis.2 Nevertheless, MSG (E621) is one additive some consumers choose to avoid


The Fears

  • MSG has been blamed for the so-called Chinese Restaurant Syndrome (CRS), including adverse reactions such as chest pain, flushing, headache, numbness or burning around the mouth.
  • Some consumers claim to be sensitive to MSG, believing they suffer from the above symptoms after eating foods containing this additive.2
  • MSG contains sodium, which has been linked to a possible increase in risk for some cardiovascular diseases.1


The Facts

  • MSG is the sodium salt of a common amino acid, glutamic acid, which is found in proteins, many foods, and in the human body.
  • Pure MSG has undergone rigorous evaluation by international scientific safety authorities. Both the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have affirmed that MSG is safe when added in normal amounts to food.
  • None of the many studies carried out over the past 30 years could substantiate a link between MSG intake and adverse reactions like those mentioned above.


What it means for you

The negative perceptions consumers have about MSG have influenced some businesses to stop using MSG in their foods, especially in the Western world. However, while consumers may be trending away from MSG, they still enjoy the taste of umami. Fortunately, creative chefs have unlimited ways to add this flavor sensation to their foods.



1)Bachmanov, Alexander. “Umami: Fifth Taste? Flavor Enhancer?” Monell Chemical Senses Center.

2)“Are Additives Bad News?” Additives Simplified.