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Some ideas for those who are having trouble avoiding MSG

If you have already studied the list of ingredients that cause or exacerbate MSG reactions, have eliminated those things from your diet yet continue to have MSG-type reactions, the following hints or reminders may be of value to you:

- Produce may have been sprayed with MSG.  At one time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state of California approved virtually unrestricted use of MSG for use on growing produce.  

 

- Milk is a possible source of hidden MSG.  Pay particular attention to ultra pasteurized milk and anything made with low fat, skim, or nonfat milk.  Also, carefully read labels on other dairy products.

- There is almost always MSG in basted chickens and turkeys.  Anything basted is suspect.

- We have had reports of MSG-type reactions from chickens, particularly chickens from major suppliers such as Tyson and Perdue.  Realizing that there is a citric acid solution approved for rinsing chickens in the processing procedure for chickens, and that citric acid causes reactions in MSG-sensitive individuals with other than a high tolerance for MSG, we have suggested that people avoid major brands of chickens and purchase organic brands or chickens from local chicken suppliers.  We have also cautioned people to only buy chicken parts, such as breasts and thighs, that have been cut from whole chickens at the store, since many chicken parts are delivered to markets in bulk bags that contain trisodium phosphate.  (Some MSG-sensitive people react to phosphate as if it were processed free glutamic acid (MSG).)  Furthermore, we have suggested that MSG-sensitive people avoid all basted or injected turkeys and turkey rolls in deli sections.

We learned from a November 6, 2007 article in the Washington Post entitled “Crying Foul in Debate Over ‘Natural’ Chicken” that there is cause for additional concern. The article states that about 30% of fresh chickens are now enhanced with some kind of solution, and some of those chickens are labeled “natural.”  The article, by Cindy Skrzycki, discloses that Tyson Foods and Pilgrim’s Pride are injecting chickens with a “solution of ingredients such as salt, broth, and seaweed extract.” According to the article, “Pilgrim’s Pride uses chicken broth, salt, and carrageenan, or seaweed extract.”  The injected ingredients add up to 15% in weight to the chickens.  The article also discloses that Gold’n Plump Poultry, St. Cloud, Minnesota, enhances its chickens, although the ingredients are not disclosed in the newspaper article.

- Dietary supplements, processed food used by vegetarians, and products labeled "organic," are some of industry's favorite places for hiding MSG.

- In 2003, manufacturers were set to flood the market with personal care products containing synthetic chemicals as well as processed free glutamic acid (MSG) that carry the label "organic." Included would have been soaps, shampoos, and other body care products that contain glutamate surfactants, and products that contain “amino acids” and/or hydrolyzed proteins.

In 2003, the National Organic Standards Board did not cover body care products, leaving the door open for the unscrupulous to include synthetic ingredients (as defined by the National Organic Program) like MSG in products they call "organic."

- Some manufacturers are still claiming "no MSG" or "no added MSG" on labels of products that sure look like they contain MSG. 

- There is MSG in some pet food.

- Reactions have been reported to soaps, shampoos, hair conditioners, and cosmetics. The most common hiding places are in ingredients that begin with the word "hydrolyzed" and in ingredients described as "protein," "amino acids," or “chelated with amino acids.”

 

- Disodium guanylate and disodium inosinate are relatively expensive food additives that work synergistically with inexpensive MSG. They would probably not be used if there were no MSG present.

 

- Binders, fillers, and/or carriers (used in "enriched" products, for example), and flowing agents, may contain MSG, but are not always mentioned on labels. In pharmaceuticals, these ingredients are usually listed in product inserts under "inert ingredients" or “other ingredients.”

 

- The food ingredient "monosodium glutamate" should not be found in, or on, products labeled "organic." However, MSG-containing ingredients such as autolyzed yeast, yeast extract, and citric acid are found in some "organic" products; and "hydrolyzed" ingredients are being used in some "organic" fertilizers. "Organic" does not mean free of MSG.

 

- MSG-type reactions have been reported following ingestion of fish, seafood, and poultry, rinsed with phosphates. A phosphate rinse for meat is also available. Rinses are not mentioned on food labels.

 

-There is no prohibition against using MSG in kosher food.

 

- There have been some reports of reactions to some sugar, some salt, and to meat that has been wrapped in cryovac (a thick, viscous plastic). 

 

- Just as poultry can be "basted" with an MSG-containing substance, meat can be injected with MSG. Some restaurants use basted steaks. 

 

- When "broth" is sold as "broth," its ingredients must be listed on its label. However, when "broth" (or any other product) is used as an ingredient in something else, its ingredients do not have to be disclosed. 

 

- Salad mix and prewashed vegetables may have been rinsed with citric acid. 

 

- MSG has been found in wax used on some raw (non-organic) produce.

 

- Drinks, candy, and chewing gum are also potential sources of hidden MSG. Also, aspartic acid, found in aspartame (NutraSweet), Neotame, AminoSweet, and Equal may cause MSG type reactions in MSG-sensitive people, depending on their tolerance levels. Aspartic acid, primarily in aspartame and AminoSweet, is found in some medications, including children’s medications. Check with your pharmacist. 

 

- Binders and fillers for medications, nutrients, and supplements, both prescription and non-prescription, enteral feeding materials, protein drinks and powders, and some fluids administered intravenously in hospitals may contain MSG. 

 

- Many multi-vitamins include minerals that are chelated with an amino acid.  This is also true of individual minerals.  Avoid minerals with names that include the words “glutamate,” “aspartate,” or “citrate.”  Also, avoid minerals with names that include a parenthesis or footnote which state “an amino acid chelate,” “an aminoate complex,” “chelated with a protein,” or “chelated with a hydrolyzed protein.” 

 

- Chicken Pox vaccine and other vaccines contain MSG, most often in "hidden" forms. 

 

- Reactions have been reported to produce fertilized or sprayed with MSG. As of January 1, 2008, AuxiGro, a spray containing more than 29.2% MSG, was no longer registered by the CDPR for use in California, but was still registered by the EPA. As of January 1, 2010, AuxiGro was no longer registered by the EPA.

- Protein drinks often recommended for seniors, enteral feeding products (tube feeding), infant formula, protein powders, and protein drinks are all sources of MSG and the aspartic acid found in aspartame.  Hypoallergenic formulas contain more MSG than other formulas.

- Foods with labels that say "No Added MSG," "No MSG Added," and "No MSG" almost always contain MSG.  There is very little processed food that contains no MSG.

Be aware that many companies that sell products that contain MSG fail to respond to consumer questions about MSG in their products with total honesty.  To have any chance of getting honest answers to your questions about MSG, you must choose your words, and phrase your questions, carefully.

1) When questioning a food company regarding MSG, never ask if the product contains MSG.  That's because to some people in the food industry, "MSG" stands only for the food ingredient monosodium glutamate; while to other people "MSG" stands for processed free glutamic acid in any ingredient or in any form.  Food companies often wrongly assume (or pretend to assume) that the acronym "MSG" only applies to the food ingredient "monosodium glutamate."  So they may tell you that their product contains no MSG while it actually contains processed free glutamic acid in ingredients other than monosodium glutamate.  In other words, they might respond to your question about "MSG" saying that the product is totally MSG free, even when it contains processed free glutamic acid (MSG).

2) When questioning a food company about processed free glutamic acid in their products, ask if the product contains any "free glutamic acid."  It will be more difficult for a company to respond inappropriately to this question, although in some cases they avoid responding appropriately. Sometime a company admits to the presence of free glutamic acid in their product(s) but may attempt to confuse consumers by telling them that their free glutamic acid is "naturally" occurring and, therefore, "safe."  No matter how "natural" is defined by a food company, the MSG in a product is never "safe" for an MSG-sensitive individual.

3) If you are not satisfied with a response that you receive from a company regarding processed free glutamic acid, ask if they have had, or would have, their product(s) tested for free amino acids.  An assay of free amino acids will tell you how much free glutamic acid (and, therefore, approximately how much MSG) there is in the product in question.  Ask for a copy of the amino acid assay results.  An amino acid assay is easily obtained by a food company and will cost them less than $150.

Kinesiology is the study of muscles and human motion.  Kinesiology can be used to tell whether a person is allergic/sensitive to a particular substance or combination of substances (be it inhaled, ingested, or in contact with the skin).

For additional information review “Ingredient names used to hide MSG in food” and “Types of products that contain MSG”.  You may also find Letters from Consumers helpful.