MSG In Foods: What You Didn’t Know (Part One)

Most people associate Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) only with Chinese food.  What isnʼt commonly known is that MSG can be found in everything from your favorite grocery items to the local fast food menu, to the local bakery.  Even though MSG has been deemed safe by the FDA, millions of Americans report sensitivity to it. For a person who has a sensitivity to MSG, the side effects can range from migraine headaches, to nausea, to heart palpitations, sweating, facial numbness, chest pains and shortness of breath.

For some who experience many of these symptoms — from mild to severe, not knowing which foods to avoid can be a miserable experience. MSG is a salt of the amino acid.  Amino acids are often called the building blocks of life because it takes many of them, linked in a chain to create a protein.  Life processes are dependent upon proteins, which play critical roles in the bodyʼs functions.  Many foods contain natural MSG in the form of an amino acid called glutamic acid, which can be found in foods like soy sauce and even yogurt.

If you look at the list of ingredients on food packaging, it wonʼt say MSG, it may list glutamate or glutamic acid.  Also note that if you see “hydrolized protein” on the label, this means there is MSG present since hydrolyzed proten can contain up to 20% free glutamic acid. When MSG is added to food it adds a flavor boost, and while it doesnʼt have much of a flavor on its own, when itʼs added to other foods it blends and enhances other flavors that are present.

Food companies are becoming much more creative about how they can get even more MSG into your food.  Being aware of ingredients can go a long way in preventing allergic reactions and possibly, a visit to the ER. If you have a sensitivity to MSG, here are some grocery store foods you should avoid (according to

•Foods labeled “Low Sodium” or marked, “Now with Sea Salt”

•Doritos, Cheetos, Pringles chips and items with cheese powder added.

•Boars Head cold cuts (including the “low sodium” varieties)

•Beef Jerky and Bullion (any flavor); plus, any prepackaged beef or chicken broth.

•Campbellʼs Cream of Mushroom and Campbellʼs Chicken Soup

•ALL Progresso brand soups

•Hamburger Helper

•Seasonings such as Goya Sazon, Lawryʼs Seasoning Salt, Gravy Masters

•Soy Sauce

•Dried Parmesan Cheese

•Aspartame or Nutrasweet and Diet drinks containing them

•Liptonʼs powdered Onion Soup Mix or Knorrʼs Onion Soup mix

•ANY prepared baked items featuring Soy Protein, Casein, Wheat Gluten, Malted Barley and non-fat dried milk as ingredients.

Here are fast food restaurants that anyone with an MSG allergy needs to either avoid altogether or be extremely selective with its menu:

ANYTHING on the menu at Umami Burger. (Umami contains extremely high amounts of free glutamate.)

•McDonaldʼs – Big Mac Sauce; Ranch dressings/dipping sauces; Most chicken products including their McNuggets, Chicken Selects, Crispy Chicken Fillet; Hash Browns, and yes, their french fries, which are precooked in an oil which contains free glutamate acid.

•Burger Kingʼs Breaded Chicken Patty, Spicy Chicken Patty, Chicken Tenders, BK Chicken Fries, Garden Veggie Patty, Sausage Patty, Ranch dipping sauce,

•KFC – Absolutely EVERYTHING on their menu — even their side dishes, contains MSG.

•Chick-fil-A – The Chicken Sandwich has MSG in it, and is the second ingredient in the seasonings after salt.

•Pizza Hut – Bone Out Wings; Breadstick Dough, Ranch dipping sauce, Chicken Al Fredo, Meaty Marinara, Sliced Jalapenos, and possibly their meat toppings.

•Taco Bell – their seasoned meats all contain MSG.

In Part Two, I’ll discuss the various suggested treatments for relief of MSG poisoning.


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