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Recognizing or diagnosing MSG adverse reactions

Identifying MSG sensitivity is extremely difficult. The strangle-hold that chemical, food, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, fertilizer, and pesticide industries have on the lives of Americans are nowhere better illustrated than in the glutamate industry's ability to guarantee that MSG be hidden in food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, dietary supplements and fertilizer/pesticide products.  These industrial giants have promoted the fiction that the pollutants and carcinogens poured into our food, drugs, cosmetics, fertilizers, and pesticides are not pollutants and carcinogens. They, through their wealth and positions of power, are ultimately responsible for medical school curricula that minimize the extent of the toxic effects of certain pollutants and carcinogens – and are ultimately responsible for physicians' failure to look to these pollutants and carcinogens as a basis for much of the disease that currently plagues us. It is they who make generous contributions to universities and medical schools that carry out their research designs.  It is they who send friendly scientists on junkets around the world.  It is they who are directly responsible for the refusal of the United States government to regulate the use of processed free glutamic acid (MSG) in food.

There is no straightforward way to identify MSG in food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, or dietary supplements.  So a consumer may have an MSG-induced adverse reaction, but since MSG in food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and dietary supplements is not identified as such on the label of the product, the consumer may not realize that (s)he has come into contact with MSG.

Making matters worse, the glutamate industry (the glutes) have sold the medical community on the fiction that reactions to MSG are allergic reactions--which is not true.  The glutes urge physicians to give allergy tests to people who might be MSG-sensitive, knowing full well that the MSG adverse reaction is a reaction to a toxin, not a reaction to an allergenic substance, and, as such, is not IgE mediated.  Traditional allergy tests only identify reactions that are IgE mediated.  The only way to determine if a person is sensitive to MSG is to feed MSG to that person and observe him or her for as long as 48 hours after feeding; or to have the person keep a record of food, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and dietary supplement use and MSG reactions. Learning to pinpoint MSG as a reaction trigger, recognizing reactions that might be MSG-induced adverse reactions, and understanding where MSG is hidden in food, are essential to recognizing or diagnosing MSG-induced adverse reactions.

Pinpointing MSG as a reaction trigger

MSG-sensitive people report reactions ranging from simple skin rash to severe depression and life-threatening physical conditions. Two or more reactions occurring together, or one following another, are not uncommon. The amount of processed free glutamic acid (MSG) ingested may play a role in the severity and specific nature of a reaction. The intensity or severity of a reaction also appears to be affected by alcohol ingestion and/or exercise just prior to, or immediately following MSG ingestion, and some women report variations in their reactions at different times in their menstrual cycles.

Diagnosis of MSG sensitivity is extremely difficult.

- None of the symptoms of MSG-toxicity are caused exclusively by MSG. Most, if not all, could be caused by various physical conditions as well as by other food additives.

- Some people eat MSG and react immediately. Some react as late as 48 hours after ingesting MSG. Of help in diagnosis is the fact that for any one person, the time between eating MSG and reacting to it is generally the same each time they react.

- Reactions are dose related. Some people can not tolerate even the smallest amount of MSG. Others tolerate single small amounts, but react to MSG when they ingest a gram or more in any one meal. Others can ingest five grams or more, without evidencing a reaction. Canned soups analyzed some time ago, each contained about .6 grams MSG per serving. Five grams or more MSG can, at times, be found in a single meal.

- The adverse effects of MSG ingestion may be cumulative. People have reported eating products containing small amounts of MSG once a week without experiencing reactions, while having reactions when those same products were consumed two or three days in a row.

- MSG is very often hidden in food. Hiding MSG makes recognition of MSG so complex and confusing that people who are sensitive to MSG have a great deal of difficulty pinpointing their sensitivities. If a person reacted after eating something known to contain MSG, he might suspect that MSG was the culprit. But if that person had the same reaction after eating something that contained MSG, but did not disclose that fact on the label, he would very likely question his original suspicion. Until all sources of MSG are easily identifiable, evaluation of possible MSG reactions will be difficult.

- Difficulty in diagnosing MSG-sensitivity is compounded by the industry practice of illegally advertising "No MSG," "No MSG Added," or "No Added MSG" on labels when products do contain MSG.

- Difficulty in diagnosing MSG-sensitivity is also compounded by use of fertilizers, pesticides, pesticides, and plant "growth enhancers" that contain MSG and leave MSG residue in or on crops when they are brought to market.

- Diagnostic tools generally available to physicians are limited to a procedure called "challenge." In a physician's office, an appropriate dose (or doses) of MSG would be given to the patient, and provision would have to be made for both restricting the patient's contact with other potential reaction triggers and observing reactions delayed by as much as 48 hours.

As an alternative, physician and patient working together may be able to identify, or rule out, MSG as a reaction trigger through analysis of a patient food diary. Restricting intake to totally unprocessed food and drink for three weeks, then reintroducing items, one at a time, may help identify offending sources of MSG.




The following is a list of adverse reactions that might be MSG-induced adverse reactions



A list of reactions that might be MSG-induced adverse reactions


Atrial fibrillation 
 - Rapid heartbeat 
 - Palpitations 
Slow heartbeat 
Extreme rise or drop

….in blood pressure




Stomach cramps 
Irritable bowel
Swelling of hemorrhoids

….and/or anus area
Rectal bleeding 


Flu-like achiness 
Joint pain 



Mood swings 
Rage reactions 
Migraine headache 
Loss of balance 
Mental confusion 
Panic attacks 
Behavioral problems in children 
Attention deficit disorders 
Numbness or paralysis

Slurred speech 
Chills and shakes 


Blurred vision 
Difficulty focusing 
Pressure around eyes


Shortness of breath 
Chest pain 
Tightness in the chest 
Runny nose 

Urological / Genital

Bladder pain (with frequency)
Swelling of the prostate 
Swelling of the vagina 
Vaginal spotting 
Frequent urination 


Hives (internal and/or external)
Mouth lesions
Temporary tightness or partial              ….paralysis (numbness or tingling)

….the skin 
Extreme dryness of the mouth/thirst
Face swelling 
Tongue swelling 
Bags under eyes

There are over 40 food ingredients besides "monosodium glutamate" that contain processed free glutamic acid (MSG) or create MSG during the ingredient’s production. Each, according to the FDA, must be called by its own, unique, "common or usual name."   "Autolyzed yeast," "maltodextrin," "sodium caseinate," and "soy sauce" are the common or usual names of some ingredients that contain MSG.  Unlike the ingredient called "monosodium glutamate," they give the consumer no clue that there is MSG in the ingredient.  (See the names of ingredients used to hide MSG in food.)

A number of the MSG-containing ingredients have been designated “organic” by the US National Organic Standards Board.  The fact that they may have been made using organic starting materials does not alter the fact that they cause adverse reactions in MSG-sensitive people.  For MSG-sensitive people, “organic” does not mean “safe”. 

One of industry’s favorite ways of hiding MSG is to claim that there is "no added MSG" in a product.  If an ingredient that contains MSG such as yeast extract is used in a product instead of “monosodium glutamate”, the manufacture may make the statement that the product has “no added MSG”. If MSG is processed into a product instead of being poured into a product, the manufacturer may declare that there is "no MSG added" or "no added MSG," in the product, even though the manufacturer knows full well that the product contains MSG.

In 1997, MSG was introduced in a plant "growth enhancer" (AuxiGro) to be applied to the soil or sprayed on growing crops. It would appear that the use of AuxiGro in the United States has been withdrawn, but it is presently being used in Europe, Asia, Central America, South America, New Zealand, Australia, and Africa.

There are a number of other MSG-containing agricultural products being used as fertilizers or being sprayed on growing crops without restriction.  Hydrolyzed fish protein and hydrolyzed chicken feathers are two of them.

The glutamate industry is adamantly opposed to letting consumers know where MSG is hidden.  Why? Because the glutamate industry understands that MSG is a toxic substance: that it causes adverse reactions, brain lesions, endocrine disorders and more. And the glutamate industry must understand, as we do, that if MSG in food, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics were disclosed on product labels, people who reacted to those products might realize that it was MSG they were reacting to, and might, therefore, refrain from buying products that contain MSG.

Letters that Truth in Labeling has received from MSG-sensitive consumers may be helpful in recognizing MSG-induced adverse reactions.