Consumers Calling for Accurate Labeling of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)


Consumers Calling for Accurate Labeling of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

A group of researchers, physicians and consumers filed a citizen petition with the FDA December 13, 1994, asking that Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) be clearly labeled when used in food. The petition asks that consumers have full disclosure of the MSG in foods and that groups considered by FDA to be most at risk from MSG consumption receive appropriate cautionary information.

MSG is a food additive with many reported harmful side effects, some of which can be debilitating, or life threatening. According to the petitioners, the FDA has ignored public health concerns in favor of the food industry.

Spokesperson for the group, Jack Samuels, himself MSG-sensitive, stated that it has been identified with far more ill effects than merely the "post-restaurant syndrome" experienced by many. MSG, which has been found to be used in large quantities in some restaurants as a flavor enhancer, may cause tingling, tightness, numbness, headache, diarrhea or fatigue within two hours after eating in as much as a third of the population. However, some may suffer life-threatening reactions including severe asthma, heart fibrillation, and severe depression. Many people do not recognize where the source of their symptoms originated. Reactions to MSG are dose-related, i.e., some people react to even very small amounts of MSG while others usually only react to larger quantities.

The FDA has been aware of complaints about MSG sensitivity since 1968. Indeed, FDA does require that MSG be labeled as monosodium glutamate when added to food in its 99% pure form. However, most of the MSG used in foods is below the 99% concentration level, permitting it to be labeled as "natural flavor," "flavoring," or some other term that does not adequately warn people that MSG is present.

The goal of the petition is to incite the FDA to take immediate action to change its regulations pertaining to MSG, requiring that all food labels list the amount of MSG present, accompanied by a simple caution to those groups most at risk. The following caution was recommended by the group: "CAUTION: this product contains monosodium glutamate (MSG) and may adversely affect pregnant women, infants, children, women of child bearing age, and individuals with affective (mood) disorders." The MSG caution that the petitioners advocate precisely mirrors the conclusions and recommendations of the FDA's 1992 FASEB MSG study.

MSG has no nutritional value and it has never been determined to be safe in any FDA proceeding. Its commercial use is permitted only due to its marketing before the 1958 Food Additive Amendments to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, which in effect "grandfathered" hundreds of substances which had never been tested for safety.

Food label descriptors that contain enough MSG to serve as common MSG-reaction triggers

These always contain MSG:


monosodium glutamate

monopotassium glutamate

glutamic acid

calcium caseinate

sodium caseinate


textured protein

hydrolyzed protein

autolyzed yeast

yeast extract

yeast food

yeast nutrient

These often contain MSG:

malt extract

malt flavoring

barley malt






whey protein, whey protein isolate,

whey protein concentrate


anything "protein fortified"

flavor(s) & flavoring(s) (including "natural" flavors)

natural pork flavoring

natural chicken flavoring


soy sauce

soy protein, soy protein isolate,

soy protein concentrate

smoke flavoring

Citizens For Health.

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