What can you tell me about sensitivity to MSG?

MSG stands for monosodium glutamate.

Recent research indicates that nearly 30% of adults believe they have a food allergy, when in reality less than 2% is hypersensitive to foods or food additives (1).

In 1991, after reviewing the literature on MSG and food allergy, a panel of the American College of Allergy and Immunology concluded that MSG is not an allergen and reaffirmed its safety as a food ingredient (2).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta showed that reported reactions to MSG accounted for less than 1% of food related complaints between 1975 and 1987 (3).

Another study tested over 200 people and found that sensations reported after MSG use were seen at high concentrations and were not reproducible from day to day. He also found no correlation with blood glutamate levels or correlations with any objective measurement. He further tested 60 people with orange juice, tomato juice, coffee, flavored milk, and a 2% MSG drink. Six people responded to coffee, six to tomato juice, and only two to the MSG drink. None, however, produced the symptoms first described as the MSG syndrome (numbness in the neck, pressure in the face and chest). When studying people who described a history of MSG reactions, even high doses of MSG failed to provoke flushing (4).

(1) Sampson, H Food Allergies. JAMA,94(1):71;1994

(2) American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Position Statement on Monosodium Glutamate, 1991.

(3) CDC. Foodborne disease outbreaks, 5-year summary, 1983-1987. Vol. 39, No. SS-1;pp.15-59, March 1990.

(4) Wilkin. Does monosodium glutamate cause flushing (or merely “glutamania”)? Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 15;225,1986.