Without monosodium glutamate (MSG), the modern food industry wouldn’t be what it is today. Discovered in Japan in 1908 and dubbed unami, or the fifth flavor, it reacts with the sensory cells of the tongue, and is best described as savory or meaty taste. So, when it’s added to food, our brains are tricked into thinking that what we’re eating is hearty and rich in protein. It can encourage us to eat products that would otherwise taste bland or outright nasty. What’s more is that it leads us to consume foods that are just empty calories without nutritional value, all for the sake of extended shelf life and poor quality ingredients! Plus, MSG is cheap to produce and easy to hide. It can be made from common foods such as corn or soy, and then be given a different name like hydrolyzed plant protein, or hydrolyzed soy extract.
Widespread use in the US food supply began by the late 1940’s as a “flavor enhancer”, and even though scientific study has shown since the 1960’s that excessive MSG is linked to nerve, brain, liver damage, and obesity, among other things, it is still in widespread use. This is because the FDA considers it a “generally recognized as safe” ingredient, such as salt, vinegar, or baking powder AND because it only requires that ingredients be listed by their common names. Hence manufacturers have created more than one way to add MSG to products. For example, when made from common foods such as corn or soy, it’s then given a common name like hydrolyzed plant protein, or hydrolyzed soy extract.
It’s even being sprayed on crops, in the form of Auxigro, a plant “growth enhancer”, approved by the EPA in 1997.