Foods with MSG

Other names MSG label

Foods with MSG

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer and preservative that has been added to the food supply for over 60 years. Unfortunately, for some people this food additive can cause discomfort--from mild to severe, which may include headache, nausea, anxiety, numbness, heart palpitations, weakness and flushing.

Interesting Fact: Hundreds of studies have been done by various special interests, without a consensus opinion being reached that would bridge the gap between those who believe it is safe and those who do not.

What does the FDA say about foods with MSG?

Although the U.S. FDA considers MSG to be “generally recognized as safe,” there is a whirlwind of controversy surrounding this popular food additive. Articles galore have been written on both sides of this issue.  There is no question that MSG enhances the flavor of foods, and for that reason, food companies have a vested interest in keeping it in the food supply. This interest translates to lobbying dollars in Washington that can have an effect on the status of MSG as a food additive.

Foods with MSG

MSG is ubiquitous in processed foods, such as soups, luncheon meats, meat tenderizers, seasoning salt, snack foods, salad dressings, fast foods and frozen dinners. It is estimated that as much as 500 million pounds of MSG are added to the world food supply each year.

Something to keep in mind about foods with MSG

One rule of thumb is that, if the packaged food comes with a “flavor packet” it probably contains MSG. Also, most frozen dinners and entrees contain monosodium glutamate in some form, usually as hydrolyzed protein or autolyzed yeast.

Not for babies!

It should be noted that, according to FDA guidelines, MSG cannot be added to baby food, since it is considered unsafe for that age group.

Looking for foods with MSG on labels

The FDA requires that food companies list MSG on the food label, if it is an ingredient in their product. Although this is may be one way to find the MSG in your food, it also may appear as a component of other ingredients including the following:

-Textured protein

-Autolyzed yeast

-Yeast extract

-Yeast food


-Glutamic Acid

-Autolyzed plant protein

Sodium caseinate

-Calcium caseinate

-Hydrolyzed protein

-Hydrolyzed vegetable protein(HVP)

-Hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP)

-Soy protein extract

-Natural flavors

Even foods that have a "MSG-free" claim on the label may contain these other forms.

Interesting Fact: Due to the problem of MSG sensitivity, medical experts have coined the term "Chinese Food Syndrome" for the symptoms of MSG sensitivity. Many Chinese restaurants will designate some or all menu items as “MSG free.”

What about eating out?

If you are trying to keep away from MSG, eating out may be one of the real challenges you face. Many sauces, gravies, marinades, soups, stir-fries, salad dressings and other dishes may have MSG in them. Even if you inquire about MSG in the food, your server may not have enough information to advise you correctly.

If you are sensitive to MSG, or worried about its effect on your health, you may want to eat at home more often to limit exposure. Doing your own cooking means you know, for the most part, what is in the foods you are eating. When you do eat out, find restaurants that you know have foods you can eat that will not contain MSG.  

The best way to avoid MSG in restaurant food is to order simply prepared, whole foods without sauces or dressings.

upset stomach

Is MSG bad for you?

There are some health experts that take a very dim view of monosodium glutamate in our food supply, since they consider it an “excitotoxin,” which affects brain health, and a “poison” that is not only addictive but can also be linked to the increased incidence of autism, diabetes, obesity and even ADHD. In addition, you will find people who experience upsets in their digestive tract when they consume foods that contain this flavor enhancer or a derivative.

The safe side

Just to be on the safe side, why not skip the MSG issue altogether? You can do this by avoiding processed foods and fast foods and instead choose fresh, whole foods that are better for you anyway, for more reasons than that they don’t have any monosodium glutamate.

In addition, become an informed consumer by learning to read food product labels so that you know what is in the foods you are buying. Even restaurants have nutrition information available or at their websites, so that you can make better choices when you are eating out.

Click here to go from Foods With MSG page to 10 Healthy Eating Tips page.