Yesterday’s conversation on high fructose corn syrup is a nice segue today’s look at food labeling and MSG.
While I understand that cost and profits are the bottom line for many companies, I refuse to take the cynical view that all companies are out to hurt people. I believe there may be some misguided motives and perhaps some bad science or bad information that is influencing some decisions, but I still have some faith in people. Just call me Pollyana. . .
I obviously needed to state this more clearly. I do not believe companies have the health of the consumer as their top priority. I do believe that profits are the bottom line. What I should have said is I do not believe most individuals set out to directly cause harm to customers, but we all know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Many decisions are based solely on profit or on the assumption that all consumers have the resources and education to make informed and healthy decisions. I majored in Biochemistry and biology and this morning I spent three hours wading through guidelines and regulations. The average consumer does NOT dedicate this kind of research when it comes to nutrition, they rely on habit, availability, media influence, and their budget.
I spent a long time just last week and today educating myself on the FDA labeling guidelines. If you would like to familiarize yourself with the standards, please visit: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/default.htm
These documents are not written in legalese and can help clear up a lot of mis-information.
The legalese versions can be found at the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 Food and Drugs.
The concerns I hear most frequently involve MSG being included in a catch-all term such as spices. Don’t worry, we will get to hydrolyzed vegetable protein in a moment.
Can MSG be declared a spice? No.
(2) The term spice means any aromatic vegetable substance in the whole, broken, or ground form, except for those substances which have been traditionally regarded as foods, such as onions, garlic and celery; whose significant function in food is seasoning rather than nutritional; that is true to name; and from which no portion of any volatile oil or other flavoring principle has been removed. Spices include the spices listed in §182.10 and part 184 of this chapter, such as the following:
Allspice, Anise, Basil, Bay leaves, Caraway seed, Cardamon, Celery seed, Chervil, Cinnamon, Cloves, Coriander, Cumin seed, Dill seed, Fennel seed, Fenugreek, Ginger, Horseradish, Mace, Marjoram, Mustard flour, Nutmeg, Oregano, Paprika, Parsley, Pepper, black; Pepper, white; Pepper, red; Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Savory, Star aniseed, Tarragon, Thyme, Turmeric.
Paprika, turmeric, and saffron or other spices which are also colors, shall be declared as “spice and coloring” unless declared by their common or usual name.
Can Monosodium Glutamate as a single ingredient be called anything other than MSG? No.
(5) Any monosodium glutamate used as an ingredient in food shall be declared by its common or usual name “monosodium glutamate.”
There seems to be a lot of concern about MSG aka monosodium glutamate as a cloaked or disguised additive to food.
Here is where it gets interesting, Monosodium Glutamate is part of set of substances that fall under the heading GRAS or generally recognized as safe. There is a searchable database that is updated regularly. The interesting point here is that MSG is noted with a designation of 2 which states:
There is no evidence in the available information on [substance] that demonstrates a hazard to the public when it is used at levels that are now current and in the manner now practiced. However, it is not possible to determine, without additional data, whether a significant increase in consumption would constitute a dietary hazard.
With this standard, MSG can be part of another ingredient and not mentioned, most commonly hydrolyzed vegetable protein, a substance in which MSG can comprise about 20%.
-I’m searching for the primary source of this fact and will add it once I verify it. I only have secondary sources at the moment.
With this in mind it is very important for those who feel they are sensitive to MSG to be on the lookout for the other names that can imply the presence of MSG and these are:
- Autolyzed yeast
- Calcium caseinate
- Glutamic acid
- Hydrolyzed corn gluten
- Hydrolyzed protein
- Monopotassium glutamate
- Monosodium glutamate
- Natrium glutamate
- Sodium caseinate
- Textured protein
- Yeast extract, Yeast food, Yeast Nutrient
I want to be very clear, it is not MSG specifically that concerns me. It is adding a substance to nutritionally inferior foods to make them palatable and cause consumers to seek out more. By consuming food with artificially inflated taste, our bodies are not given the nutrition they expect, which triggers a cycle of craving and over-consumption of calories.
We derive satisfaction from the presence of good flavor and naturally seek it out. Think of it like this, mushrooms have glutamates, and they add wonderful flavor to food; but when we use mushrooms as an ingredient, we haven’t stripped out all of the other parts of the mushroom. It’s when foods are distilled to their basic chemical makeup just so these enhancers can be utilized as an additive that we have a problem.
What are your thoughts?