The Hidden Names of MSG (and Artificial Glutamates)

I have so many people ask me EVERYDAY about MSG, also known as monosodium glutamate, a sodium salt of the amino acid glutamic acid. MSG is found naturally in tomatoes and cheeses. MSG is just one form of glutamate, which form the umami flavour we experience in many Asian dishes. Glutamates occur naturally in foods such as seaweed, and in their natural form (i.e. whole food form) are generally OK to eat. Modern food science has discovered how to extract glutamates into refined forms, and now use fermentation to extract L-glutamate from sugars. The refining process has allowed glutamates to be manufactured under different guises, making MSG the fall guy, and allowing artificial flavourings to continue being added to our foods.

Artificial glutamates have been linked to a slew of health issues, in the 1960's the New England Journal of Medicine discussed Chinese Restaurant Syndrome, where people would experience a range of symptoms that were linked to neurotoxicity, with the glutamates acting as an excitotoxin (click to read more!). Strangely since then there has been largely ignorance from the food and science community, except for the removal of most MSG from ingredient lists. Awareness of MSG still remains high in the community, and many consumers know to avoid foods with MSG in them. Food manufacturers however have identified a raft of ways to incorporate artificial glutamates into foods, meaning many of us think we are avoiding MSG, but are still consuming ingredients almost identical if not identical.

To help break through the noise of food manufacturers, I want to share a list of allowable (by the Australian Federal Government) artifical glutamate additives put together by the Food Intolerance Network. These additives act as a list of ingredients to avoid in your foods, you will be surprised as to which foods contain these ingredients, including some of the "healthy" products on the market:

  1. E-Number: 620;
  2. E-Number: 621;
  3. E-Number: 622;
  4. E-Number: 623;
  5. E-Number: 624;
  6. E-Number: 625;
  7. Flavour;
  8. HPP;
  9. HVP;
  10. Yeast* (not baker’s yeast);
  11. Ammonium glutamate;
  12. BBQ flavour*;
  13. Calcium glutamate;
  14. Cheese powder*;
  15. Corn protein;
  16. Flavour (gluten)*;
  17. Glutamic acid;
  18. Hydrolysed casein;
  19. Hydrolysed corn;
  20. Hydrolysed maize;
  21. Hydrolysed protein;
  22. Hydrolysed rice;
  23. Hydrolysed soy;
  24. Hydrolysed vegetable;
  25. Hydrolysed wheat;
  26. Hydrolysed yeast;
  27. Kelp extract;
  28. Magnesium glutamate;
  29. Maize protein;
  30. Miso powder;
  31. Monoammonium glutamate;
  32. Monopotassium glutamate;
  33. Monosodium glutamate;
  34. Natural flavour*;
  35. Plant protein*;
  36. Potassium glutamate;
  37. Rice protein;
  38. Savoury yeast;
  39. Soy protein*;
  40. Soy sauce*;
  41. Umami flavour;
  42. Vegetable extract*;
  43. Vegetable protein;
  44. Wheat protein;
  45. Yeast extract;
  46. Autolysed yeast extract;
  47. Natural flavour soy;
  48. Nutritional yeast extract;
  49. Savoury yeast flakes;
  50. Soy sauce powder*;
  51. Vegetable extract (maize);
  52. Vegetable extract (soy);
  53. Vegetable extract (wheat);
  54. 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;
  55. Dehydrated vegetable seasoning (corn);
  56. Dehydrated vegetable seasoning (maize);
  57. Dehydrated vegetable seasoning (rice);
  58. Dehydrated vegetable seasoning (soy);
  59. Dehydrated vegetable seasoning (wheat);
  60. Flavour natural (contains corn)*;
  61. Flavour natural (contains maize)*;
  62. Flavour natural (contains rice)*;
  63. Flavour natural (contains soy)*;
  64. Flavour natural (contains wheat)*;
  65. Plant protein extract (corn);
  66. Plant protein extract (maize);
  67. Plant protein extract (rice);
  68. Plant protein extract (soy);
  69. Plant protein extract (wheat);
  70. Vegetable protein extract (corn);
  71. Vegetable protein extract (maize);
  72. Vegetable protein extract (rice);
  73. Vegetable protein extract (soy);
  74. Vegetable protein extract (wheat).

Some of these additives have the words natural in them, this is due to the source of the additive comes from that natural source. This is misleading, it would be the same as a vodka manufacturer stating that their beverage is a potato extract (natural). Take some time today and look in your pantry, see if you can find one of the names in the ingredient list of your favourite foods, share them with me in the comments below. I can help you find an alternative that contains no MSG/MSG equivalent additives!