MSG health fears are without foundation

Susan Scott International Glutamate Information Service

Sir; Ken Brook-Chrispin, chairman and CEO of Seabrook Crisps, made reference to monosodium glutamate (MSG) as a cause of obesity and other health problems ('Packs may need better labelling', The Grocer, 2 June, p62). These allegations are completely without foundation and publishing them only serves to perpetuate myths, confusing manufacturers and consumers alike. MSG is the salt of glutamic acid, an amino acid found naturally in protein-containing foods such as meat, vegetables, and milk. The glutamate naturally present in food and the glutamate derived from monosodium glutamate are identical and the body treats them in exactly the same way. The role and metabolism of glutamate is very well understood. Only a very small amount of the glutamate we consume (either naturally occurring in food or from seasoning) enters the bloodstream. Rather, this dietary glutamate is used by the cells of the digestive system for energy. If MSG is used to season processed foods it must be listed in the ingredients panel, and while it is used in snacks and crisps for its flavour-enhancing properties, it can have other benefits as well. In certain savoury foods MSG can help to reduce sodium content without compromising taste. Although glutamate is not salty itself, using a small amount of MSG in a low sodium product can make it taste as good as its higher salt counterpart. MSG contains only one third of the amount of sodium in table salt and is used at lower levels. This means sodium content can readily be reduced by 30%.