Anyone who has gone grocery shopping knows that food packages are loaded with buzzwords. Gluten free, organic, MSG free, non-GMO. Lack of explanation and persistent marketing creates fears, and things like gluten, MSG, and GMO are cast in a negative light when most consumers would not be able to tell you why they are supposedly so terrible.
The fear can also be attributed to articles such as David Gutierrez’s “KFC menu found to be loaded with MSG “excitotoxins” that can damage neurology” from naturalnews.com.
In the article, he states that monosodium glutamate (MSG) is an “artificial salt” that is unlike the “naturally occurring glutamate…found in food such as anchovies, tomato paste…and parmesan cheese.” He mentions this to appeal to the general fear that anything that doesn’t naturally occur is harmful to the body. However, he fails to note that MSG is found naturally in tomatoes, cheese, and other foods.
Gutierrez reproves the use of MSG, saying that it “has been connected with various health problems” and lists symptoms such as headache, numbness or burning in the mouth, and shortness of breath. However, in a placebo-controlled experimental design by Tarasoff and Kelly, 71 participants were given 5g MSG and then a standard breakfast. Only participant reported a reaction to the MSG, a self-identified MSG-sensitive individual who was given the placebo.
Finally, Gutierrez’s article is purposefully fear mongering. He notes that in high doses, MSG can overstimulate neurons “literally to death.” He also says in the article that KFC chicken is “literally marinated in MSG.” Word choice is incredibly important and his almost implies that the chicken is smothered in MSG. First, the ideal concentration of MSG varies by food, with tests finding that over addition of the compound in food results in a decline in reported pleasure score. Secondly, the KFC lists 3 ingredients for the marinade: salt, sodium phosphate, and monosodium glutamate, in that order. In the FDA food labeling guide, it states that, “the ingredient that weighs the most is listed first, and the ingredient that weighs the least is listed last.” For all we and Gutierrez know, there could be minimal amounts of MSG. But without stating the amount that is required for a lethal dose or the amount in the KFC chicken, he claims in the title that the KFC menu is “loaded with MSG.”
That being said, this blog post is not to encourage you to consume more MSG, but just to clear up some misconceptions that you may have. Don’t fall for all the buzzwords that are slapped on packages! You could miss out on a tons of delicious GMO food with gluten and MSG.
Posted by: Haley Huang, Group A, Week 4