> food : composition : msg

most food additives augment health. how do we consider the side effects of food additives contributing to taste? such is the case with msg.

Monosodium Glutamate was isolated from seaweed as a food additive in 1908 by Professor Kikunae Ikeda of The University of Tokyo (Monosodium Glutamate: A Look At The Facts). prior to that, the seaweed, and other sources of naturally occuring gluatmate, such as tomatoes and mushrooms, had been used to flavour soup stocks and sauces. msg supporters claim it enhances flavours already extant in foods. kind of like "fortifying" existant vitamins.

the argument against msg-flavouring? besides some connoisseur sense of food, there are a few people who suffer terribly at the inclusion of msg. their indignation is righteous:

MSG "tricks" your brain into thinking the food you are eating tastes good. Manufacturers can use inferior ingredients and thus make the product seem tastier. Inferior products and higher profits prevail at the expense of consumer health. MSG intolerance is not an allergic reaction, but a powerful drug reaction.
- the National Organization Mobilized to Stop Glutamate, http://www.nomsg.com/, winter 1998

like anti-vaccine activists, anti-msg folk demand the acknowledgement of hidden technologies, and the resulting power to chose to exist without them.

vitamin fortification of foods is easier to perceive as a social good - aiding for healthy development. in the case of MSG, the most readily explainable social good is helping people eat bad food. a bowl of unpalatable soup is all the more appealing with a little of that warm flavour provided by MSG - and those who are allergic to MSG may simply cook without it. consumers are free to read packaging for their foods, listing the nutrients involved.

that is the justification from the FDA, after much testing, they allow a product harmful to a few to remain in use with proper notification:

"For years the FDA has been testing MSG and continues to rate it GENERALLY RECOGNIZED AS SAFE (in 1995, scientific advisers to the FDA agreed that MSG was safe for almost everyone). However, as a concession to those few who are sensitive to it, the FDA requires that all food containing MSG be so labeled, even if the MSG is only a component of HYDROLYZED VEGETABLE PROTEIN or soy protein. (Some of these are 20 percent MSG.)
- Jean Anderson and Barbara Deskins, Monosodium Glutamate page, The Nutrition Bible

dorito bag msg has an unannounced presence in common foods: check out a bag of doritos sometime. way down on the list of ingredients is plainly stated monosodium glutamate. i say "unannounced" because many products pronounce themselves free from the stuff, but few brag about having that msg flavour added. what did i expect from a fifty cent mass produced plastic bag of fried corn? they'll take any flavour they can get.

but the problem of msg is ultimately not so much a question of labelling and information, the primary issue is scale; how many people constitute an afflicted enough minority for which we will more tightly regulate chemicals and additives?

perhaps we weed out those with resistances to our engineered foods. they are welcome to exempt themselves from our union of glorious good tasting health enhancing foodstuffs. they are welcome to resort to medicine to provide vaccines and cures for their particular and hopefully unique additive allergies.

on the other hand, looking less to machine determinism than to stasis, it's likely we are at all times cooking with and breathing and swallowing all manner of contaminants, to which specific portions of the population are allergic. information provides them a fair opportunity to avoid those allergic moments.

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