Food For Thought: MSG and Chinese Restaurant Food Syndrome

Food For Thought: MSG and Chinese Restaurant Food Syndrome

Next to ginger and soy sauce, MSG is probably the most common “spice” associated with Chinese restaurants, especially popular Chinese takeout food. While some people may be allergic and others experience distinct negative physical reactions (like Dad), there are some who don’t seem to be affected by MSG (or don’t know they are). Companies that use it claim that there is “no scientific data that proves a direct negative health effect.” (I know because I gave feedback to Frito-Lay and got a lengthy, well-researched letter–and several snack coupons).

In fact, most folks are surprised how many everyday, popular American foods and natural products, contain MSG or natural glutamate in one form or another (see below).

Some folks like Dan Pashman thinks MSG is A-OK.

True, the rap on MSG (and to some extent, Chinese takeout) suffers from a PR image issue, in spite of a trove of unscientifically proven claims. So much so that it’s actually made a curious foodie comeback under a different identity and marketing name (spoiler alert!): U-M-A-M-I. So many celebrity chefs and foodies swoon over the mystique of umami and the “fifth taste” like a new-age trend. They won’t even say what it is exactly except repeating “it’s umami!” What is umami anyway? Definition: a category of taste in food (besides sweet, sour, salt, and bitter), corresponding to the flavor of glutamates, especially monosodium glutamate. MSG with a makeover!

It’s the UMAMI stupid! Why MSG is So Easy to Swallow

My take on using MSG for cooking (at home, in classes and our products) is: it’s not worth the risk and not necessary! Our sauce line is natural, MSG-free, and simply delicious with fresh ingredients and family recipes. I don’t need an out-of-body-fifth-dimension-taste-buds-experience, just good food!

Here’s food for thought, literally, a good informative article on MSG. Note last entry on the list!

So you think you don’t eat MSG? Think again…

Some of the names MSG goes under:

  • monopotassium glutamate
  • glutavene
  • glutacyl
  • glutamic acid
  • autolyzed yeast extract
  • calcium caseinate
  • sodium caseinate
  • E621 (E620-625 are all glutamates)
  • Ajinomoto, Ac’cent
  • Gourmet Powder


The following may also contain MSG natural flavors or seasonings:

  • natural beef or chicken flavoring
  • hydrolyzed milk or plant protein
  • textured protein
  • seasonings
  • soy sauce
  • bouillon
  • broth
  • spices


Free glutamate content of foods (mg per 100g)

  • roquefort cheese 1280
  • parmesan cheese 1200
  • soy sauce 1090
  • walnuts 658
  • fresh tomato juice 260
  • grape juice 258
  • peas 200
  • mushrooms 180
  • broccoli 176
  • tomatoes 140
  • mushrooms 140
  • oysters 137
  • corn 130
  • potatoes 102
  • chicken 44
  • mackerel 36
  • beef 33
  • eggs 23
  • human milk 22 (!!)
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