Monosodium glutamate (MSG, also known as sodium glutamate) is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, one of the most abundant naturally occurring non-essential amino acids. Glutamate is found in tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, potatoes, mushrooms, and other vegetables and fruits.
MSG is used in the food industry as a flavor enhancer with an umami taste that intensifies the meaty, savory flavor of food, as naturally occurring glutamate does in foods such as stews and meat soups. This was first prepared by Japanese biochemist Kikunae Ikeda, who was seeking to isolate and duplicate the savory taste of kombu, an edible seaweed used as a base for many Japanese soups. MSG as a flavor enhancer balances, blends, and rounds the perception of other tastes. It is particularly popular in Korean, Japanese, and Chinese cuisine.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given MSG its “generally recognized as safe (GRAS)” designation. A popular belief in the Anglosphere is that large doses of MSG can cause headaches and other feelings of discomfort, but in controlled studies, scientists have been unable to trigger such reactions. The European Union classifies it as a food additive permitted in certain foods and subject to quantitative limits. MSG has the HS code 29224220 and the E number E621.
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