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Myths and Misconceptions: MSG

Every week I see dozens of myths and misunderstandings about food and our company come across my desk, confused thoughts ranging from "Everything Whole Foods sells is organic" to "Canola oil is a secret poison" to "Whole Foods Market is owned by Paul Newman." This is the first in a series of posts aimed at sharing - and clearing up - some of the more popular misunderstandings floating around out there. Through these examples, I'd like to illustrate the lengths we go to "do the homework" about natural foods and to make sure that there's nothing in our products that you'd be surprised to find there. If you have any particular questions or topics you want to see covered, post a comment down below and let me know what you want to hear about.

Who we are and what we do Look around near the doors of any one of our stores and you'll likely find our commitment to "Selling the Highest Quality Natural and Organic Products Available" painted directly on the wall. This promise, the first of our company's core values, seems simple at first glance, but becomes complicated once you start to consider the words "natural" and "organic" and what they really mean. I'll save "organic" for another post, but what does "natural" mean, and who decides? Well, we do, and we take the job very seriously. I work as part of our Global Quality Standards Team. We set the company's standards for what we sell in our stores, including food ingredients, body care products, dietary supplements, meat, seafood, and virtually every other category of products in our stores. Our jobs are a sort of a hybrid of food science, chemistry and philosophy, as we review the ingredients, products and practices that go into our products. We're not just studying the nitty gritty of how the ingredients are made, but how they fit into our belief that minimally processed food is better, and our promise to only sell natural food. We consider ourselves buying agents for our customers, rather than as sales agents for our suppliers, which in my mind is one of the best descriptions of what we do. Our work always starts with our promise to sell "the highest quality natural and organic products;" no matter how deep we get into the chemistry of how a given ingredient is made, the questions we're trying to answer are "is this natural" and "would our shoppers be surprised to find this in a natural product?" Is it natural? How is it made? How is it extracted? Is it legal? Is it safe? Our buyers and stores are only allowed to bring in products that meet our strict standards.

Myth: There's Hidden MSG lurking in our aisles And now to this post's aforementioned myth and/or misconception: Ever since the TV show 60 Minutes aired a story about MSG in the early 1990s, we've been getting calls and emails from customers concerned that there's secret MSG hidden behind our labels. The short answer is that MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is an unacceptable ingredient at Whole Foods Market, thus not allowed in any of our products. We don't allow it because it's an artificial flavor enhancer that's inconsistent with the idea of natural food. But the ongoing confusion about the ingredient is complicated, and requires us to look at some of the chemicals responsible for food tasting good. The term "glutamate" refers to a number of forms of glutamic acid, an amino acid found naturally in many foods (and in our bodies). Cheese, milk, meat, peas, seaweed and mushrooms are a few of the foods containing the highest levels of natural glutamate, and this substance is largely responsible for the phenomenon of umami, the "fifth taste" of savory, meaty foods. In fact, the discovery of the link between glutamates and savory flavors led the Japanese food scientist Kikunae Ikeda in 1908 to the commercial development of monosodium glutamate. MSG is a synthetically derived and highly concentrated flavor enhancer that is almost completely made up of glutamates. It's so powerful that just a few drops can drastically change the flavor of a dish. As the 60Minutes story exposed, it's also so powerfully concentrated that it can cause severe reactions in people who are hypersensitive to it. While the scientific basis of the set of symptoms known as "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" has been debated and doubted by many, the phenomenon has caused a lot of people to carefully and diligently avoid MSG. A number of consumer groups have claimed that certain food ingredients, such as autolyzed yeast and hydrolyzed protein, are MSG in disguise. They are not. Autolyzed yeast and hydrolyzed proteins, among other ingredients, are completely natural ingredients that happen to be have substantial amounts of glutamates, but nowhere near the concentration found in MSG. While a small subset of people may be sensitive to even these small levels of glutamate, these ingredients are always clearly identified on the labels so that, as with all food sensitivities and allergies, people can be aware of ingredients they'd like to avoid. These are natural ingredients that are definitely of grave concern for people who are sensitive to them, but they are not MSG. We draw a clear line between natural glutamate-containing foods, which we allow, and highly concentrated MSG, which we don't.

For further MSG reading: The New York Times ran a good story on this issue back in March, although I wish they'd made a clearer distinction between MSG and the other glutamate containing additives. Jordan Sands article "A Short History of MSG: Good Science, Bad Science, and Taste Cultures" appeared in the Fall 2005 Issue of Gastronomica (my very favorite food magazine). It's not available online, but I'd recommend getting your hands on it if you can - hopefully your library has a copy floating around.

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151 comments

Comments

Linda L. Sack says …

Is it true that they use msg as a pesticide now? I read an article from a thought to be reliable source who reported this. Also, is it true that almost all corn has been genetically modified? and in fact most of our grains grown here in the U.S.? This is such a horrible thing that they imposed on us.

says …

@Linda I reached out to Joe Dickson, our Quality Standards Expert. Here is his response.... "I'm not aware of MSG being used a pesticide. I'd be happy to review any source of information that suggests otherwise. It is true that most of the corn and soy grown in the US is genetically modified. At Whole Foods Market, we believe that the most effective action we can take is to clearly label products that don't contain GMOs, and accordingly, we provide a number of options for shoppers looking to avoid GMOs: •Look for the thousands of organic products we carry as certified organic agriculture prohibits the use of GMOs in organic production and handling. •Buy our 365 Everyday Value and 365 Organic store brand food products; they are sourced to avoid GMO ingredients and many have been verified under the Non-GMO Project verification program. •Look for the Non-GMO Project Verified seal on the many, many products currently on our shelves. We are working with our vendor partners every day to add more to our shelves. Each of our stores’ web pages has a shopping list of Non-GMO Project verified products carried in that store. (www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores)"

bones says …

Autolyzed yeast extract and hydrolyzed proteins ARE another form of MSG. I suffer THE SAME allergic reactions to all three of these chemicals. The very same chronic itching after unknowingly consuming these so called "completely natural ingredients". When I look up what ingredients that particular prepared food contains low and behold autolyzed yeast extract or hydrolyzed proteins are listed. What special interest group does Whole Foods have to pander to in order to stay in business? I've even visited websites that say the connection between MSG and itching is a myth???? What?

Nicole says …

Hate to hear Whole Foods uses autolyzed yeasts.

Albert says …

For goodness' sake, the sooner people take an organic chemistry course, the better. Monosodium glutamate, the sodium salt of glutamate, is indeed natural in the sense that while it's manufactured, it can easily be found naturally in foods, in your body, etc. It's soluble in water, ionizing into sodium (ooh, salt) and a glutamate anion (ooh, protein). Any "reactions" people are having to MSG is either due to a third variable, or completely psychological. Unfortunately, the fear-mongering and media-driven scare tactics will never stop. Until then, I'll continue enjoying my yummy, MSG-containing food. If there's any reason to fear MSG, it's that it contains sodium; which is something we should all be watching anyways.

Greg says …

Autolyzed yeast extract is in fact an ingredient that contains MSG. It is often used in food products that claim no MSG was added. US laws allow "natural flavoring" to consist of "protein hydrolysates" containing free glutamic acid. That's why they do it - to have the free glutamate to act like MSG so they can declare a "clean label" while misleading the consumer. Shame on Whole Foods for supporting the use of autolyzed yeast or hydrolyzed protein, which can contain up to 20% free glutamic acid - the active part of MSG. Shame on Whole Foods for falsely claiming that "autolyzed yeast and hydrolyzed proteins, among other ingredients, are completely natural ingredients" when they are in fact highly processed, dangerous, addictive toxic food additives.

Gerry says …

Excellent comment Albert. IMO, if everybody would just stop eating processed food of any kind purchased from any store, and started eating nuts and twigs in their back yard, they'd be much better off. Good grief, you'd think that everything that WF sells is part of the great MSG conspiracy straight out of the CIA playbook of GMO foods worldwide. I wonder how many of these people notice how much sodium chloride (is it cancer causing?) chemical is in their food they eat every day!? It can be toxic in the wrong amounts and is a known cause of hypertension, can lead to heart attacks, stroke, hardened arteries and a lot of other things! This is PROVEN! Sodium Chloride is dangerous! I think that the inclusion of this ingredient in almost everything we eat is morally wrong, and should be avoided at all costs! The Mono-Sodium Glutamate (MSG) everyone is complaining about is nothing compared to the deadly threat of Sodium Chloride. It is the GMO Conspiracy to end all! Check your food labels people! :-) **(No squirrels were hurt in the production of this comment).

Rusty says …

If MSG is not all that bad then why do food companies go to great lengths to change the name of MSG on their ingredients list? Why not just list "MSG" as an ingredient? Because they no that people will avoid that product. Why do they avoid that product with MSG? Because it causes them great discomfort, pain and sometimes suffering. To say that a person that eats a food product containing MSG is suffering due to another variable is downright mean-spirited and ignorant. There is a reason Whole Foods is as popular and successful as they are. People like me believe we can purchase "clean" food without all the cancer/disease causing additives and preservatives. Think about this. Did your grandparents suffer from disease like this generation is now? NO!! They still fought disease like the flu and chicken pox but none of them had trouble digesting wheat products like we are now. Know why? People who are suffering from Celiacs disease or "gluten intollerance" are not actually allergic to wheat..they are allergic to the genetically modified vesion of wheat we are forced to eat now. Monsanto has genetically/chemically engineered all kinds of food products by changing the very essence of the food. Now our bodies do not recognize this new substance and treats it like an invader which triggers the bodys mechanism to eliminate the offendig substance. I got off on a rant..sorry. I could not be happier that Whole Foods finally opened up in my city. This place gives me choices not available at other stores. I actually wanted to put together a trip of WF customers to travel the country in a charter bus to visit stores in other states. My favorite WF store in located in Las Vegas.

Turner says …

MSG is in products at Harrys Farmers Market, Roswell/Alpharetta GA. Louisiana fish cornmeal product - the sample provided had Monosodium Glutamate in it. At leasst it was listed clearly on the product. Canola oil used so excessively at Whole Foods-why is this? Very cheap oil-canada oil-which is not a whole food!! We understand that Whole Foods is a publicly traded company and therefore the main objective is to make the shareholders money rather than health.

Al Monaco says …

Your 365 Organic Herb & Garlic Water Crackers contains BARLEY MALT. Are you "claiming" that that is not a hidden MSG?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@AL MONACO - Our Quality Standards prohibit the use of MSG as an ingredient in any products we carry in our stores. However, there are approved ingredients we use and sell, which may contain naturally occurring free glutamates.

MARLA says …

I appreciate this article and on a recent trip through Whole Foods I was surprised to see Autolyzed yeast extract in 3 out of the 5 store-made soups, among other names I have discovered in much study are the" free glutamin " equivalent to MSG. SO I was disappointed- though surely not swayed from loving WHole Foods, but VERY SURPRISED. I am NO expert, but my understanding is that there is a difference between the glutamate our body produces and those created through processing...I amcurious how something so detrimental in a smaller form is still acceptable..but I'd love to believe it, honestly, Joe...Do you have scientific data to back that up? from studies done comparing the effects of the other glutamates vs. MSG and the amounts, etc? I'd truly appreciate it. It seems hard to find solid answers to difficult questions like this.

Michele Lux-Fulgencio says …

[SENT TO CS - NN] Although you state that there is a clear distinction between autolyzed yeast extract and hydrolyzed protein and the MSG, those of use who are allergic to it still have the same reactions. I noticed that lately there has been a change in the chicken broth to add an extra ingredient along with a box change. This really upset me, as it was one I cannot consume. I cannot remember what it was at this point, because of course I did not buy it. I have driven across the island numerous time to go to Whole Foods in order to be able to have some chicken broth that has no MSG or other derivatives I cannot eat. I work seven days a week and don't really have the time to make my own broth and was so pleased that someone was smart enough to make a broth made from natural flavors, versus adding "natural flavor" enhancers, that I cannot use. I do understand that it is cheaper to use flavor enhancers, but for those of us with allergies, it is worth the cost of products without. Please don't cave to the low standards of other brands when considering what ingredients to use in your products.

Gilbert Moore says …

I would like some clarification. You state that Whole Foods does not allow any foods with MSG in them. Is that limited to just foods under the Whole Foods brands, or does that apply to any foods that Whole Foods sells under any and all brands?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@GILBERT - This is a Quality Standard of ours that applies to any product that is sold in our stores.

DawnMN says …

I'm always amazed at the "official line" that there is no direct connection between MSG and the physiological effects that people sensitive to it report. They say it is psychological, or caused by something else. Why don't they just put together a population KNOWN to have adverse reactions, and find out why it happens? I'm not allergic to apples, but a friend of mine is - that doesn't mean her allergy is psychological, or caused by "something else". I'm pretty certain it's the pure MSG form that I'm sensitive to - not the glutamates in general - because I can eat things with hydrolized yeast and not get a reaction. So I figure I'm rather low on the "Sensitivity scale". But if I touch a fingertip in something like "Accent" brand flavor enhancer (pretty much pure Monosodium Glutamate) I get pressure at my temples within 15 to 20 minutes, and a facial flush within 30 minutes - so it wouldn't take long for them to monitor the reaction!!! :) I've actually done that - had a fingertip of "Accent" crystals just to check to see if that was really what I was reacting to in food - and, sure enough! It happens! I've never had a fingertip of hydrolyzed yeast, but I'd be tempted to try a bit of marmite to see if "straight" hydrolyzed yeast does the same thing as the "Accent"... Maybe I'll look for it in the WF store and see if a team member will open it for me to try! But it doesn't bother me (so far) in the concentrations used as flavor enhancer. But I can see where if someone is VERY sensitive to glutamates in general, they really would need the labeling, and I think WF would be smart to comply - regardless of whether or not there is agreement that it is a "toxin in any form" (well, a lot of things are toxins - including Oxalic Acid, which will kill your kidneys and occurs in high concentrations in Kale and spinach, Kids! and I don't see people pounding the desks to have them cleared from the shelves - benefits outweigh the risks there). I'd just wonder if there have been any peer-reviewed and published medical studies involving people who have personally known and demonstrative sensitivities to dietary Monosodium Glutamate (as I have), to determine WHY we react the way we do to this compound. If anyone posts references - please note that I said "Peer reviewed and published" - not "HealthGuruJane's anti-MSG/pro-MSG website". And I'm asking about studies involving dietary Monosodium Glutamate; not the impacts/effects of Glutamates which the body produces naturally regardless of what you eat. If I was a betting person, Glutamate sensitivity will eventually be found to be similar to Cholesterol - your body needs both, your body *produces* both, but different people's metabolisms will react differently to those things in the diet - and health professionals and food manufacturers (and Whole Foods Market) will need to acknowledge it.

Donna B says …

I just returned from Whole Foods so this discussion, which has been going on for years, is very relevant. I and my husband are very sensitive to MSG and its "hydrolyzed", "autolyzed", "natural flavors" cousins. I spent forever reading all the broth ingredients trying to find one that didn't have MSG or one of its cousins. I have a very simple solution to this problem. The name of the store is WHOLE FOODS. Why not sell only products that contain real whole foods like carrots, onions, celery, chicken, beef, etc. If the products contain any of the forms of MSG, don't sell them. If you don't sell them, the manufacturers will make the products without the objectionable ingredients. And your customers will be happy. And we will buy more, so the store will be happy. Would you make the same argument you're making for the MSG substitutes for a product that contains only small amounts of arsenic as opposed to larger amounts? The bottom line is that people have varying degrees of symptoms from a product that is known neurotoxin. Don't sell it. Period. At this point, I know I have to read each and every label at Whole Foods or suffer the consequences.

carol hoernlein says …

In 1995, the FDA considered using foods that have high free glutamate content to be misleading and recommended that they be LABELED. The food lobby killed that idea and you are perpetuating the problem. Simply because free glutamate is 78% of MSG (not 100%) by weight and autolysed yeast can contain up to 24% free glutamic acid by weight is a very poor excuse to say they are different. It is simply a matter of degree. Your use of Ajionmotos' propanganda about Umami is not very convincing. Free glutamic acid is free glutamic acid. If someone is trying to avoid it, help them avoid it, don't lie to them and make them ill.

Lynn Kearney says …

I just want to know if what "natural flavors" means when I see it on something I buy at Whole Foods. Where is it coming from? Lemon? Cashew Nuts? Tomatoes? Soy? And if it is soy, how much processing has taken place? Does it mean Yeast extract, autolized or hydrolized yeast or anything similar? If so, please let me know your take on these ingredients which are considered by some to be similar to msg and possibly causing over excitement of the taste buds neurological disturbances. Thank you.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@LYNN - Great question. Note that there is a specific FDA definition for the term, so you can’t sneak any unnatural ingredients under the term “natural flavors.” According to the FDA “The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional. Natural flavors include the natural essence or extractives obtained from plants listed in §§ 182.10, 182.20, 182.40, and 182.50 and part 184 of this chapter, and the substances listed in § 172.510 of this chapter.” Since soy is a major allergen that must be listed under the ingredients of a product, the manufacturer would have to list soy if the product contained it at all.

Steve says …

FDA regulations say that manufacturers do not have to put the term "monosodium glutamate" on the label as long as a particular ingredient doesn't contain more than 99 percent pure product. Recommended reading: Health and nutrition secrets by Dr. Russell Blaylock M.D. chapter 7 Link: Truth in labeling http://www.truthinlabeling.org/ Your labels that I diligently checked out when I started buying them have changed with more and more references to natural flavors. I will be actively seeking better alternatives.

leahnaranjo says …

wow im a teenager and more of this kind of research is making me realize how much our food system is messed up im scared to eat now :(

Beth says …

Whole Foods should revisit their claims of "No MSG". I think the store is now in violation of the FDA labelling guidelines. This is from the FDA website, November, 2012. (See the last sentence): How can I know if there is MSG in my food? FDA requires that foods containing added MSG list it in the ingredient panel on the packaging as monosodium glutamate. However, MSG occurs naturally in ingredients such as hydrolyzed vegetable protein, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed yeast, yeast extract, soy extracts, and protein isolate, as well as in tomatoes and cheeses. While FDA requires that these products be listed on the ingredient panel, the agency does not require the label to also specify that they naturally contain MSG. However, foods with any ingredient that naturally contains MSG cannot claim “No MSG” or “No added MSG” on their packaging. MSG also cannot be listed as “spices and flavoring.” http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/FoodAdditivesIngredients/ucm328728.htm

MattC says …

It is unacceptable and corporate-cowardly to hide ingredients under "Natural Flavors". Please either be honest and list them, or, better yet, make a quality product that doesn't need this junk.

Steve Mullen says …

The bottom line for me is that free glutamates make me and my family sick.. spinning headaches, nausea.. immediately after eating anything that contains it. MSG, Autolyzed yeast extract, Modified corn starch and others all have the same effect. To call the connection a myth is insulting... the effect is very real. Yeast may be natural, but once the chemical wizards dissect and condense it to engineer this product it shouldn't be called natural. MSG is just a twisted fermentation of sugar... How is that different?

Angela says …

As a mother of four glutamate-sensitive children, the fact that glutamate-containing substances can be listed as simply "natural flavors" has been a nightmare for us. When I call the manufacturer to find out what the "natural flavors" are, they tell me that the ingredients are proprietary. Because glutamates are safe for most people, Whole Foods can take a careless stance, but wouldn't it be great if they could use their corporate power to encourage companies to label the amount of glutamate per serving on all products?

Robin Hall says …

Thank you for clearing up the MSG confusion for me. I have a lot of trouble with any kind of chemical food additives, and I thought autolyzed and hydrolyzed were just a way of trying to disguise the fact that MSG was an ingredient in food. I have a box of organic chicken broth that has autolyzed yeast listed as an ingredient, and I was going to return it, but I decided to do some more online research about it, and came across your article. Very informative article. I've bookmarked it and will read more of your posts.

emmett518 says …

Is it me or are "additives" slowly creeping into Whole Foods products? Whether it's yeast extract in the broth or citric acid in the bread, it's now at a point where I have to read the labels at Whole Foods as carefully as I do at the local supermarket. That is sad.

Noj says …

Beth quoted the FDA on page three of this comments section, "How can I know if there is MSG in my food? FDA requires that foods containing added MSG list it in the ingredient panel on the packaging as monosodium glutamate. However, MSG occurs naturally in ingredients such as hydrolyzed vegetable protein, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed yeast, yeast extract, soy extracts, and protein isolate, as well as in tomatoes and cheeses. While FDA requires that these products be listed on the ingredient panel, the agency does not require the label to also specify that they naturally contain MSG. However, foods with any ingredient that naturally contains MSG cannot claim “No MSG” or “No added MSG” on their packaging. MSG also cannot be listed as “spices and flavoring.”" http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/FoodAdditivesIngredients/ucm328728.htm If anyone would like to literally see how some companies apparently are and some apparently are not in compliance with these regulations you can take a look at different products. Examples that I have found include Kettle brand potato chips and Annie Chun's soup. It would appear that Kettle does comply while Annie Chun's does not. If you look at the labels of Kettle chips you will see 'no MSG' where they do not add 'yeast extract,' but that they omit this claim on their flavored potato chips that do have 'yeast extract.' On the other hand, Annie Chun's claims "no MSG added" even when their product does have 'yeast extract' in the ingredient list. It would appear that some companies decide to disregard the FDA's labeling requirements whiles others do not.

Ada Lovelace says …

This article is deceptive and unethical. Some people want to know when "free glutamate" (MSG) is in their food in ANY form--not just in the form of the ingredient "monosodium glutamate." Glutamate is a natural amino acid found in many foods--it's safe in its unadulterated form. Mushrooms, tomatoes, and other foods high in glutamate are very healthful. However when this particular amino acid is highly processed and "freed" from its amino acid chain, it becomes neurotoxic and excitotoxic. Let the people decide what they want to buy, but please support transparent labeling. Personally I avoid all hydrolyzed proteins, "natural flavors," yeast extract and more (see a full list at www.msgmyth.com). It would be helpful if companies would stop deceptive labeling practices.

Julie Kellam says …

MSG is made from soy. It is fermented soy. Hydrolyzed vegetable protein is a general term for MSG. Yeast extract is not good because so many people out there have yeast imbalances which cause food allergies. Many companies are using this ingredient to flavor soups and products. Why can't they just make good old fashioned chicken or beef stock with celtic (grey) sea salt and herbs. Many products say no added MSG but some occurs in the soy. I like Shelton soups and broths and "More than gourmet" stock. It is unadulterated but I try to make my own. P.S. I am a stockholder of WFM.

Chris Neff says …

I have a specific question: Does the organic "allspice" in your 365 Ketchup contain msg?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@CHRIS - No, the allspice in our organic ketchup will be just allspice. We also do not allow MSG in our products as part of our quality standards.

Roberta says …

Is 'YEAST EXTRACT" OK to consume. Are there different kinds of yeast extract for food consumption and is one or the other OK to digest? Do Whole Foods Market sell any brands?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@ROBERTA - At this time yeast extract is an acceptable ingredient for the products in our stores. I'm not sure if we sell jars of yeast extract or not since our products differ. You can always call your local store to find out if they sell this.

Cathy Reed says …

Thank you for this article, albeit an old one. My chiropractor, who is a specialist in neurology, alerted me to the MSG issue, so I've been reading up and getting very scared and depressed. I trust Whole Foods although I don't really shop there because it's too far. But I think I'll make a trip there this weekend. Thank you again.

Steve Franklin says …

Let's get one thing straight here. If you mix glutamic acid with salt, you get Monosodium Glutamate. That's MSG by whatever name you want to call it: "Hydrolyzed soy protein" or any of a whole range of ways of avoiding putting MSG on the label. This is a chemical fact, and whatever the relative levels, it gives me headaches. And if you read the actual government definition of "natural flavoring," it includes anything made from natural ingredients using a whole variety of chemical processes that include but are not limited to hydrolyzation. So MSG is "natural flavoring" by government definition, as long as you don't synthesize it in a chemical plant. And the reason the manufacturers put these hydrolyzed versions in their food is so they can "clean up their labels," as they call it, and not have to list MSG. So kindly stop tap dancing around this subject and tell the unvarnished truth for a change. We're not all yokels from Mississippi.

Debbie says …

I've been a long-time fan of your stores, and appreciate all your efforts to keep unsafe ingredients off your shelves. Earlier today, I put some Tessemae's Lemon Garlic dressing on my salad (from your store) and within an hour, I had that well-known MSG headache, and I'm not even that sensitive. Out of curiosity, I checked on the web about the ingredient, "organic spices," that is an ingredient in the dressing. According to some websites, as long as the MSG is less than 50% of the "organic spices," they don't have to label it. Is this true?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@DEBBIE - To my knowledge they have to disclose if there is MSG. I would suggest reaching out to the vendor directly to ask them directly since we do not make this in-house.

Suzanne says …

Well, anything that says no MSG but contains 'spices' gives me a massive migraine. 'Spices' usually means autolyzed yeast extract or something similar. Wish Whole Foods would stop selling products that contain these ingredients!

Kathy J. says …

WF...PLEASE....WHY NOT PUBLISH A PAMPHLET IDENTIFYING PRODUCTS THAT CONTAIN ONLY SIMPLE INGREDIENTS ...NOT CHEMICALS.....FOR THOSE WHO DON'T WANT AUTOLYZED, OR HYDROLYZED ANYTHING, YEAST EXTRACT, CITRIC ACID, MALTODEXTRIN AND ALL THE OTHER ADDITIVES CLEARLY NOT WANTED BY THE MAJORITY POSTING HERE.? LET'S HAVE A POTATO CHIP MADE WITH POTATOES, ORGANIC CANOLA OIL , AND SALT, THAT'S ALL ! ..

patrice says …

THANK YOU for your post, NIKA, from 2008 and the other posters who call B.S. on this article. i was shocked to hear from the PREPARED FOODS MGR in the santa barbara store a few yrs ago that the YEAST EXTRACT in the soups (which is never prepared in-house but in a commissary several days earlier and trucked over) was not MSG. of course it is MSG. and why do all the vegetarian (i can't comment on the non-veg flavors) COMMISSARY SOUPS taste exactly the same? they all share that underlying taste. of YEAST EXTRACT. where is the transparency??

Peggy Singer says …

Thanks so much for clearing this up. I just bought your organic hash browns that were on sale and loved them and then saw they had the hydrolyzed yeast extract in them and was disappointed. This article makes me feel much better now. Thanks for being on top of things that concern us when it comes to our health. Do you know if the MSG is disguised as "natural flavorings" in any foods or is that against FDA regulations?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@PEGGY - There is a specific FDA definition for the term, so you can’t sneak any unnatural ingredients under the term “natural flavors.” According to the Code of Federal Regulations (21CFR101.22 Subpart B: Foods: Labeling of Spices, Flavorings, Colorings, and Chemical Preservatives, http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=101.22), the official definition for natural flavors is: “The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional. Natural flavors include the natural essence or extractives obtained from plants listed in §§ 182.10, 182.20, 182.40, and 182.50 and part 184 of this chapter, and the substances listed in § 172.510 of this chapter.”

Brittany says …

I like the article content, but it is hard to read one giant paragraph. I find I have to read and re-read and it's easy to get lost in the words, when there is one giant run-on paragraph. Please consider revising this to make it easier to read.

Candace says …

I wonder how much you have really researche MSG and all the other names it can go by these days. "Natural Flavors" is a hidden way they sneak MSG into foods. I purchased some tea from your store in Portland Oregon on Sandy and had no idea until using it for a few days that the ingredients included "natural flavors" I wish I had been able to return this item. Instead i replaced them with another brand from another store. If a flavor is really all that natural, it shouldn't have be labeled as natural flavor.

Doris Sampson says …

You need to take paragraph breaks in your writing. Jamming this whole article into one enormous read without being able to identify shifts in your subject's individual focuses makes it an impossible read as far as I'm concerned. You cannot hold attention span for so much information all run together like this. Readers need to be able to identify which paragraphs are of most interest to them; and they need to be able to FIND a paragraph of interest if they want to look for that specific information again later.

patton caldwell says …

Thanks for clearing up the glutamate and MSG link.

Roberta Johnson says …

Thank you for not allowing MSG! Thank you all you do to bring safe food choices to consumers!

jon says …

This article is just a lie. Those ingredients are msg/free glutimate. They are there as an ingredient to make you like the product and come back for more. Who ever feels better after reading the article needs to realize this article is to protect the profits of this food industry and will lie if they have to. What a shame that even health conscience food producers are doing this to people trying to protect themselves.

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