Glutamate Association defends MSG use in soup

by Jeff Gelski
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WASHINGTON — The Glutamate Association issued a statement Oct. 20 defending the use of monosodium glutamate (MSG) in foods, including using it as a way to reduce sodium content. The statement follows soup company advertisements that portray MSG negatively. Advertisements for Campbell’s Select Harvest soup have criticized Progresso soups for including MSG while General Mills, Inc., Minneapolis, has said it plans eventually to make all its Progresso soups free of MSG, a flavor enhancer.

"The recent flurry of advertisements that discuss the monosodium glutamate (MSG) content of canned soup as a point of differentiation between brands has no doubt caused confusion among consumers," the Glutamate Association said. "Consumers may be wondering if there is new research or some other reason why they are being encouraged to choose foods that do not contain MSG.

"There is not. In fact, research conducted over the past decade has only reinforced the role of monosodium glutamate as a safe and useful ingredient in the diet. These new soup campaigns are nothing more than marketing gimmickry."

Using MSG may allow food formulators to reduce sodium content in food by 30% to 40%, according to the association, which added fermentation of corn glucose produces MSG. The Glutamate Association includes manufacturers, marketers and processed food users of glutamic acid and its salts, principally MSG.

The Food and Drug Administration lists MSG as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) although it warns that people sensitive to MSG may have mild and transitory reactions when they eat foods that contain large amounts of MSG.

MSG has been associated with Chinese restaurant syndrome, which also goes by the names hot dog headache and glutamate-induced asthma, according to the National Institutes of Health. Headaches, abnormal heart rhythm, rapid heart rate and decreased air entry in to the lungs are signs of the syndrome.

"A food additive called monosodium glutamate (MSG) has been implicated, but it has not been proved to be the substance that causes this condition," the National Institutes of Health said. "It is possible that some people are particularly sensitive to food additives, and MSG is chemically similar to one of the brain’s most important neurotransmitters, glutamate."

Earlier in October, Campbell Soup Co., Camden, N.J., pointed out all 44 varieties of its Select Harvest brand soups are free of MSG while Progresso soup brands contain MSG. Besides its Select Harvest soup brand varieties, other Campbell soup brand varieties contain MSG. Also in October, General Mills said it is removing MSG from its Progresso soups and that 26 soup varieties already are free of the flavor enhancer.

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