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Check Your Noodles Packet for ‘MSG’ Label

14,April, 2016

CHENNAI: The country’s favourite noodles, Maggi, may be back on the shelves after clearing all tests and being certified safe by labs. But you may still have to check for a label while buying packet foods – a label telling you if it contains Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) – a flavour enhancer that gives a unique addictive savoury taste and got Maggi into trouble (and also helped it capture the market).

While MSG is internationally approved as an agent to enhance flavour, its excessive consumption is considered undesirable, though no research has proved any scientific causal link between MSG and health disorders.

The controversy around Maggi simmered down, but the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has now directed all food safety commissioners to conduct checks on the manufacturing premises, as this is the only means to identify if MSG was added deliberately with no proper labeling. “There is no analytical method to determine whether MSG was added to the product during its manufacture or was naturally present in the product. This can be checked through inspection of the manufacturing premises,” said an FSSAI order dated March 31.

MSG is prohibited in selective food products Under Regulations 3.1.11 of the Food Safety and Standards (Food Product standards and Food Additives), Regulations, 2011. It should not be added to any food for use by infants below one year and in a few other selective food items.

MSG will slowly affect vision and also will cause adverse effect in those suffering from cardiac problems, renal problems, high BP and diabetes, warn experts. Meenakshi Bajaj, dietician at the Government Multi Super Speciality Hospital, says people with the ‘Chinese restaurant syndrome’ should not consume food flavoured with MSG. “They may suffer giddiness, palpitation, tightening of the face and itching. Seven grams of MSG intake is allowed per day for a person who weighs 70 kg. Anything above that is harmful,” she said.

Said Kumar Jayant, State Commissioner of Food Safety. “We regularly get complaints about sub-standard food but there is no mechanism to check MSG presence. But if anyone is found guilty, we’ll take action.”

HOW it was found

Glutamic acid was discovered and identified in 1866 by the German chemist Karl Heinrich Ritthausen, who treated wheat gluten (from where its name is derived) with Sulphuric acid.

In 1908, a Japanese professor named Kikunae Ikeda was able to extract glutamate from this broth and determined that glutamate provided the savoury taste to the soup. Ikeda then filed a patent to produce MSG and commercial production started the following year. He called it Umami.

What is MSG?

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is the sodium salt of the common amino acid glutamic acid. Glutamic acid is naturally present in our bodies, and in many foods and additives

How is it made?

MSG occurs naturally in many foods like tomatoes and cheeses. People around the world have eaten glutamate-rich foods throughout history. For instance, a historical dish in the Asian community is a glutamate-rich seaweed broth.

How it is prepared

Today, instead of extracting and crystallising MSG from seaweed broth, MSG is produced by fermentation of starch, sugar beets, sugar cane or molasses. This process is similar to that used to make yogurt, vinegar and wine (Source: Wikipedia and US Food and Drug Administration’s website)

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