Sue's Blog

What is MSG?


The most-searched google term in Australia in 2017 was “What is MSG?”.

No wonder, since so much food labelling boasts “No added MSG” while in fact hiding the active free glutamate flavour enhancer from consumers in over 129 sneaky ways.

But in India the huge food company Nestle was hauled into court and had to remove this claim because of

"misleading labelling information on the package reading 'No added MSG'”

Under Indian regulations, foods with any ingredient that naturally contains MSG cannot add a label “No added MSG” on their packaging, as this could give a misleading impression that the product contains no MSG.

This is where Nestle went wrong in India and it has agreed to remove the ‘No added MSG’ claim on their packaging.

Maggi, Nestle India's single-largest revenue earner, was banned in June 2015 for six months across India on allegations that it contained chemicals such as lead beyond prescribed limits and on other charges including some about MSG. The company had to recall 38,000 tonnes of Maggi noodles from millions of retail shelves and destroy them. The ban was relaxed in November 2015.

But the ‘No added MSG’ claim remains everywhere in Australia. 

Our food regulator FSANZ has given up on regulating the many ways that free glutamates are added to food, settling for regulating just six white powder forms. Appeals to the Australian consumer protection agency ACCC for consumers to be informed about what is in their food have been bounced to FZANZ and back again to ACCC for years.  Nobody in authority is willing to take on the powerful and litigious USA Glutamate Association or the shadowy Australian Glutamate Information Service.

While free glutamates are naturally present in many foods, consumers are being actively misled about the ADDED levels in products strongly labelled as “no added MSG”.

"Consumers shouldn't have to remember over 129 names of ingredients if they are trying to avoid glutamates. Instead, all food companies should follow the consumer-friendly ones and make the simple statement on their ingredient panels 'May contain naturally occurring or other forms of added glutamates' said Dr Howard Dengate of the Food Intolerance Network.

“Manufacturers should not be allowed to claim 'No (added) MSG' on the packaging when glutamates are added as that is actively misleading."


What can you do to avoid or limit MSG?

The aisles to watch out for are the savoury biscuits, the chips and snacks, the noodle soups, and the tasty items in the health food section.

If it is tasty, check it out

Rule 1: if the packaging says anywhere ‘no added MSG’ then it is very likely that there IS added MSG in another form.


Rule 2: if the ingredients label includes any of the following, there is CERTAINLY added MSG in one form or another:  627, 631, 635, ribonucleotides, nucleotides, disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate, disodium 5'-ribonucleotides.


Rule 3: if the label includes an ingredient name made from some of the following words (yeast extract, hydrolysed vegetable/ soy/wheat/maize/corn/rice/plant  protein) so like  this: “vegetable protein extract (corn)”, SUSPECT added MSG and see our post  129 ways to hide MSG

“I am a food technologist  … I have sat in technical meetings discussing what to call the MSG that we want to put in a product“
from story [1246]

Why would you want to avoid or limit MSG?

Industry funded research will seek to convince you that MSG is always safe, but some people react badly to it and want to know if it is in their food. If the dose is high enough, many will react to this brain signalling chemical, as this German study showed:

"After eating a soup 10 persons (out of 100) fell sick; within 10 minutes they suffered from nervous muscle convulsions, trembling, mouth desiccation and dilation of the pupils. The soup contained glutamate as flavour enhancer in an unusually high concentration of 31 grams per litre".

More reading

Top Google searches in 2017

Could MSG be good for you? Opinions of a dietician and a food writer, cook and TV presenter where the extraordinary claim is made that the ‘umami’ taste from glutamates means that you eat less salt, fat and sugar that are known to be bad for you, therefore it is good for you.  For a scientific refutation see

129 ways to hide MSG and fool consumers

Glutamate industry lobbyists and

Soup wars in India

No added MSG': How labelling cooked Maggi's goose  

'Remove misleading label on MSG from Maggi packs' 

German research on MSG Beitr Gerichtl Med. 1989;47:69-71. [Glutamic acid group poisoning. So-called Chinese restaurant syndrome]. [Article in German] Rudin O, Stauffer E, Cramer Y, Krämer M.

MSG factsheet

MSG boosters factsheet