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monosodium glutamate

Pronunciation: [mon-uh-SOH-dee-uhm GLOO-tuh-mayt]

Commonly known as MSG, this white crystalline powder is derived from glutamic acid, one of the 22 amino acids. This natural amino acid is found in seaweed, vegetables, cereal gluten and the residue of sugar beets. It was first discovered by Japanese scientists in the 1920s. Japan, where MSG is known as aji-no-moto, is still today's largest producer of MSG, a popular flavor enhancer in Japanese and Chinese cooking. Even though it has no pronounced flavor of its own, monosodium glutamate has the ability to intensify the flavor of savory foods. Some people have reactions to MSG that cause them to suffer from a variety of maladies including dizziness, headache, flushing and burning sensations. MSG is found in the spice section of supermarkets either as monosodium glutamate, MSG or under brand names such as Ac'cent. Many seasoning mixes also contain MSG. Additionally, it's present in many processed foods such as snack foods, frozen entrées, salad dressings and soups. Be aware that many ingredients naturally contain MSG, but are not required by the Food and Drug Administration to be labeled as such. These ingredients include hydrolyzed vegetable protein, kombu extract and natural flavoring or seasoning.