When picking up my groceries, I am always one to take a look at the ingredients. Most of the time I am looking at nutritional facts and how much sodium or sugar is contained within. When take a read at the ingredients there are always a few ingredients that I tend to be wary of: the additives and preservatives. Additives and preservatives are added to foods to give them a longer shelf and storage life. They are also used to improve flavour, colour and texture of processed foods. It has been my belief that the fresher the better but that is not always possible due to time constraints or necessity of an ingredient in a recipe. Natural preservatives have existed for a long time such as salt, sugar, vinegar, acid (such as lemon), and alcohol to name a few. Sadly, while those preservatives work for some foods they don’t work for all of them. Take meat for example, some meats we can eat salty or sugary like ham or bacon but could you eat a sweetened fish? Therefore, today I want to talk about additives and preservatives in our foods.
With the widespread of chemical names that are unfamiliar to much of the populace, most people just refer to chemicals as a negative ingredient. The ask “why can’t companies just put the natural name on there?”. Well due to health control laws they must put the chemical names on there. It is important to educate yourself on ones that are controversial as they are more difficult to avoid. Today I will discuss one of the most controversial
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
MSG is a known as a flavour enhancing ingredient (Health Canada). Allow me to break the chemical name down for you. Mono means one. Sodium is Na an element often found in salt (NaCl). Glutamate is an amino acid, a building block protein. MSG as a chemical stimulates the tongue’s taste receptors and therefore nerves which communicate to the brain that it is hungry and wants more. This need for continued stimulation paired with the food that it is eaten with can cause mild addictive behaviours. MSG in low dosages is considered acceptable and safe to consume by the Health Canada. Actually, it’s a naturally occurring chemical compound. Yet, it is important to be aware that there are many people who are sensitive or intolerant to the consumption of MSG. This is due to the amount and concentration of MSG that is being consumed. Similar to how having arsenic (considered a poison) in an apple is still safe, but not when you have concentrated and large does, as it will be poisonous. While MSG is not poisonous, there are still people who associate their symptoms to the presence of MSG. Currently, there has yet to be a study that pinpoints the reason why people have such a sensitivity and there are only arguments for and against the possibility.
MSG is not only found in preservatives, it can be found in soup bases, spice mixtures, infant formula and baby foods, bottled sauces, salad dressing and croutons, protein powder, and even vaccines (not that you would consume that). While those are definitely shelf type foods, MSG is also found in pasteurized milk products such as parmesan cheese (this is naturally occurring), cream, half and half, low or no fat dairy products will also have it. We know that Chinese cuisine is famous for using MSG but did you know that KFC does too? Literally almost anything that has an extended shelf life will have MSG of some type in it.
Here are the a few other names of MSG:
For a more extensive list go to truthinlabeling.org
As for me, I will continue to limit and reduce my intake of MSG by eating fresh and organic
Health Canada. (2017). MSG questions and answers. Taken Feb 27th, 2017 from