Resource Centre What about MSG?

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is the sodium salt of free glutamic acid and it provides a flavour function that occurs naturally in food. Low levels of MSG can be found in tomatoes, potatoes and mushroomss and is not harmful to the human body.


Glutamate is an amino acid that is present in many food groups and is also produced by the human body as it plays an essential role in normal body functioning.


The added MSG (E621) and all other glutamate salts (such as its potassium (E622), calcium (E623), ammonium (E624) and magnesium salt (E625)) separate in aqueous solutions and are therefore chemically identical with free glutamic acid1. MSG is most commonly added to Chinese food, canned vegetables, soups and processed meats for added flavour and shelf life. MSG was also historically blamed for the ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’ because the first anecdotal report was made following consumption of a Chinese meal.


Symptoms said to be experienced from consuming MSG include burning sensations along the back of the neck, tightness in the chest and face, nausea and sweating. Double-blind placebo controlled trials have however failed to confirm MSG as a causative agent. Synthesised glutamate has been declared safe for humans of all ages and for all current intake levels, after a review of scientific evidence by the FAO/WHO expert committee and by the Scientific Committee for Food (SCF) of the European Communities. In other words, synthetic MSG is just as safe as natural MSG.