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The Message on MSG

Q. Do I still have to be concerned about restaurants using MSG, or is that a thing of the past? — Jamie, Green Bay

A. MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a naturally occurring member of the salt family and acts as a stimulant to our taste buds, making them more sensitive to salty and savory flavors. Although many products on the market are labeled “contains no MSG” or “MSG free,” it is still a relatively common food additive and continues to be found in many processed foods. I don’t know of many restaurants or chefs who actually purchase MSG and use it as an ingredient in the foods they prepare, but because it is still very common in many of the foods purchased by restaurants, it would not be safe to assume that its use is a thing of the past. A few chefs who I’ve worked with used it as a flavor enhancer and some sausage recipes I’ve researched have it listed as an ingredient. Some foods that are known to include MSG are soy sauce, Asian-inspired sauces, soup bases and spice blends. It is interesting to note that after many years of laboratory testing, MSG has been determined to be “Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS)” to eat. That being said, if you are someone who has adverse reactions after eating MSG, it would certainly be advisable to minimize its consumption. Thanks for your question, Jamie!

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