MSG is a common additive and food flavor enhancer that has attracted controversies over the years despite being used in the food industry. The FDA approved it for use and can be found in different foods commonly eaten today.

Most of the foods today that come processed and ready-to-eat have various additives, some of which are attracting controversies. For instance, monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a food additive used by various restaurants and food industries to enhance taste by making foods taste savorier and meatier. Pringles, chips, sausages, and KFC chicken are a few of the hundreds of foods featuring MSG. Since some people are MSG-sensitive, compiling a list of all the foods containing MSG helps one avoid such and prevent the likely negative side effects.

Understanding what MSG is

MSG is a food flavor enhancer prepared from L-glutamic acid, one of the protein building blocks, otherwise called amino acids. It was first introduced to the market in 1908 when Japanese researchers invented it for flavor enhancement, after which it became popular in the food industry. When added to food, MSG adds an umami or a savory and meaty flavor to food and stimulates the taste receptors, booting its acceptance. Consequently, many restaurants and food industries now use it, especially because it results in a wonderful taste without adding any salt, saving costs.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared MSG ‘generally recognized as safe (GRAS),’ but some researchers find it controversial and argue that the additive may pose negative side effects to a person, especially when taken in high amounts consistently. The international identification number for MSG is E-621, which you will see on MSG products. According to FDA, all MSG-containing products should include it on the ingredient list, except for protein isolate, cheeses, and tomato products, which naturally contain MSG. Here are examples of foods with MSG;

a.      Fast foods

Most fast foods, including Chinese dishes, have been using MSG to enhance flavor. This is because many people have suffered from MSG symptoms complex after taking MSG-rich fast foods from Chinese restaurants, and they experienced negative side effects, including hives, throat swelling, headache, paining belly, and itching. The Chinese fried rice is one such food with MSC and has wreaked havoc on people. Of course, most Chinese restaurants are trying to avoid MSG in their foods, but some still use it. Besides the Chinese dishes, Chick-fill-A and KFC chickens also contain MSG.

b.      Seasoning blends

If you are a fan of tacos and fries and stews, like most of us, you might be using seasoning blends many times to give the dishes a unique, salty, savory flavor. Instead of using salts, many restaurants now use MSG to enhance the savory flavor, which is very cheap. Since MSG reduces sodium content in food products, you will mostly find it in many low-sodium products like bouillon cubes and seasoning blends, where it’s used as a cheap flavor enhancer. In addition, some fish, poultry, and meat rubs also feature it to make them more palatable.

c.       Snack foods and chips

MSG can now be found in many chips and snack foods, including Pringles and Doritos chips, snack mixes, and corn chips. Since many companies are featuring MSG in their products, naming all of them would be hard. Therefore, the most ideal thing to do is read the ingredient list if you want to avoid consuming MSG.

d.     Frozen foods

Many people have a thing for frozen foods and deem it a cheap method of getting foods. However, these meals can be dangerous since they harbor many unhealthy products, MSG being just one of them. In trying to boost the meals’ savory taste, MSG is added, but it can be problematic, especially for MSG-sensitive people. Frozen breakfast meals, cheese, frozen pizzas, and mac are other food examples with MSG.

e.      Processed meats

As stated at the outset, hundreds and hundreds of foods feature MSG, and processed meats have not been left behind. Most people would agree that beef jerky, pepperoni, smoked meat, sausages, hot dogs, and meat snack sticks are delicious, but knowing that they all contain MSG may leave them not desiring these foods again. Processed meats use the ingredient for two primary reasons; enhancing the tastes and reducing the sodium concentration without necessarily altering the taste. In fact, one study confirmed that MSG has been widely used in pork patties to reduce sodium content and boost flavor without interfering with the tastes.

f.        Instant noodle products

Globally, instant noodle products save students, especially those on a tight budget or when they are just busy and don’t wish to cook. Yet, these products have MSG, which has been used to enhance their savory flavor. Besides this, instant noodle products have other unhealthy additives, including refined carbs, added salts, and other ingredients, which could be dangerous to health; hence, you might have good grounds to avoid them. What’s more, studies have shown that they increase heart disease risk factors, including blood pressure, triglycerides, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels.

g.      Condiments

Soy sauce, salad dressings, barbeque sauce, ketchup, and mayonnaise are among the many condiments with MSG; hence, you might want to review whether you will really consume them. Besides, they have other additives and artificial colorings, which render them even more dangerous. As a good substitute, focus on the condiments made from whole foods or prepare your own at home.

h.      Canned soups

Manufacturers know that consumers long for the savory taste, which is why they add MSC to the canned soups to enhance that craved for flavor. Campbell’s chicken noodle soup, fried soup mixes, and many other canned soups are also MSG-laden.


Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a common ingredient introduced in the food industry in 1908 by Japanese researchers to enhance the foods’ savory and meaty taste. Although FDA has deemed it safe, many scientists find its usage rather controversial, stating that it can pose negative side effects when taken in high amounts consistently. MSG-laden foods include chips & snacks, instant noodle products, soups, processed meat, and condiments. Check for MSG or its identification number E-621 if you are concerned about this additive and would like to avoid it.

Charlotte Cremers

MS, University of Tartu Sleep specialist Using the acquired academic and professional experience, I advise patients with various complaints about mental health - depressed mood, nervousness, lack of energy and interest, sleep disorders, panic attacks, obsessive thoughts and anxieties, difficulty concentrating, and stress. In my free time, I love to paint and go on long walks on the beach. One of my latest obsessions is sudoku – a wonderful activity to calm an unease mind.