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MSG Intolerance

MSG, or Monosodium Glutamate is a salt that is chemically converted into a flavour enhancer.

As a glutamate, MSG is not alone. Glutamate is also found in foods such as meat, chicken, fish, cheese, tomato pastes, products such as stocks and sauces, as well as hydrolysed protein.

People with an intolerance to MSG, sometimes called Chinese Restaurant Syndrome, will often find they can tolerate a certain amount of MSG before feeling ill - sometimes immediately, sometimes hours afterwards. This makes diagnosis important but difficult.

Many people link the following to MSG consumption:

  • headaches,
  • flushing,
  • poor attention
  • muscle tightness
  • fatigue,
  • numbness or tingling

There is no requirement in restaurants and cafe's to declare the presence of these additives. If you believe you are sensitive to them you should ask if they are being used. The owner should be able to tell you whether they are used.

Sensitive individuals should also be aware that high amounts of glutamates can be present in food like:

  • hard cheeses e.g. parmesan
  • tomato concentrates and sauces
  • stocks cubes and concentrates
  • sauces such as soy, fish, oyster etc
  • spreads such as Vegemite®, Marmite® etc.
  • foods containing added Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP)

Knowing how to recognise MSG as an ingredient can help sufferers to minimise or eliminate it from their diet. 

The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, Standard 1.2.4 — Labelling of Ingredients, means packaged food must declare the presence of MSG or any other flavour enhancers as 'flavour enhancer' followed by their name or number as follows:

  • 620 glutamic acid
  • 621 Monosodium glutamate
  • 622 Monopotassium glutamate
  • 623 Calcium glutamate
  • 624 Monoammonium glutamate
  • 624 Monoammonium glutamate
  • 625 Magnesium glutamate
  • 627 Disodium guanylate
  • 631 Disodium inosinate
  • 635 Disodium ribonucleotides

 

Additional Resources: 

NSW Food Authority
MSG