What is MSG?

MSG is a type of glutamic amino acid. Like other unbound or 'free' glutamates (including the artificial sweetener Aspartame), MSG is a neuro-exciter that triggers activity in the nervous system. MSG has no distinct flavor of it’s own but initiates a series of events that ultimately activate smell and taste receptors.

The History of MSG

MSG was first isolated from kombu (a type of seaweed) by a Japanese chemist in 1908. The US military began using MSG as a flavor enhancer for field rations during WWII and introduced it to US food manufacturers at a special symposium held in 1948. At that time, MSG was believed to be a cheap wonder ingredient that could enhance the smell and taste of even the most marginal ingredients. Now it’s difficult to find processed foods in the US that don’t contain some form of MSG.

Is MSG Safe?

The safety of MSG has been argued for decades.

Proponents of MSG say that manufactured MSG is chemically the same as free glutamate found in tomatoes, mushrooms and other foods. Opponents argue that naturally occurring free glutamate contains only L-glutamic acid while manufactured free glutamate contains L-glutamic acid, D-glutamic acid, pyroglutamic acid and a variety of other components and is absorbed more quickly and at higher doses.

Some experts believe that MSG is safe in small amounts—others believe that MSG is a dose-related toxin/poison that affects everyone but causes more obvious symptoms in some people.

Originally dubbed "the Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" adverse MSG reactions were first reported and published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1968. The mass production of MSG by a proces of wheat gluten hydrolysis was utilized from 1909 to the mid 1960s when it was changed to a process using bacterial fermentation. It's interesting to note that the first adverse reactions to MSG were not reported until production processes had changed.

MSG In the News

MSG became globally newsworthy in 2001 when the use of an enzyme derived from pigs in the manufacture of MSG led to the arrests of several Indonesians who worked for Anjinomota, the world' largest manufacturer of MSG. They were charged with breaking Islamic dietary laws that strictly forbid human consumption of pork or pork products. The result was a public apology from Anjinomota and the replacement of pork enzymes with soy enzymes.

Symptoms of MSG Toxicity

MSG symptoms are well documented and can include numbness, burning sensation, tingling, facial pressure or tightness, chest pain, headache, rapid heartbeat, nausea, drowsiness, and weakness. Persons with asthma may also experience breathing difficulties.

Labeling of MSG

US food laws currently require the individual listing of all ingredients that contain significant amounts of MSG or other types of manufactured free glutamate, although some small businesses may be exempt from these rules. MSG and other manufactured free glutamates can be found in many different ingredient listings.

Ingredients that always indicate the presence of manufactured free glutamates:

  • Monosodium glutamate
  • Glutamic acid
  • Monopotassium glutamate
  • GlutamateNatrium glutamate
  • Textured Protein
  • ANY hydrolyzed protein
  • Protein isolate
  • Hydrolyzed corn gluten
  • Yeast food
  • Hydrolyzed yeast
  • Yeast nutrient
  • Sodium caseinate
  • Autolyzed yeast
  • Calcium caseinate
  • Yeast extract

Ingredients that usually indicate the presence of manufactured free glutamates:

  • Soy extracts
  • Soy Sauce*
  • Soy protein
  • CarrageenanSeasonings
  • ProteaseStock, bouillon, broth
  • Maltodextrin
  • ANY type of fortified protein or with the words enzymes or natural flavor/flavoring

*Excludes naturally brewed soy sauce because is contains only L-glutamic acid (like tomatoes, mushrooms and certain other foods)

Two things about MSG cannot be disputed

  1. The safety of MSG continues to be argued by scientific experts

  2. The adverse reactions of MSG are well documented

For these two reasons, Buffaloberries™ does not support the use of MSG or other synthetically-manufactured free glutamates.

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