Artificial flavors are chemical scents and fragrances that are added to processed foods, drinks, and condiments to maintain and improve flavor.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
Classified by the FDA as GRAS, MSG is the sodium salt of glutamic acid. It has been used for over 100 years as a food flavor enhancer. Other ingredients that contain chemical glutamates are hydrolyzed proteins, yeast extracts, and protein concentrates. The Japanese name for MSG is ajinomoto.
What is it used for? Used as a flavor additive to chemically enhance savory and umami compounds and to create a savory flavor.
Found in: Many Asian food restaurants, ramen, canned vegetables, soups, processed meats, low-fat yogurt, ranch flavoring, cheese flavoring, Goldfish crackers, other snack foods
- Eliminated from baby food
- Now must be listed as a food additive in packaged foods
- The FDA does not require disclosure of the specific components and amounts of MSG used in “natural flavor”
- Believed to cause chest pain, headache, sweating, and numbness in certain people (1 percent of population), but researchers have found no definitive link
- Depression, irritability, and mood changes are a concern since glutamates are neurotransmitters in the human brain; neurologists continue to study possible side effects, but currently have established no conclusive connections
- Glutamates are neurotransmitters in the brain for learning and memory, and they can overstimulate the neurons; neurologists are concerned about side effects of MSG, but no conclusive studies show connections