This post is a part of Fight Back Fridays, hosted by Food Renegade.
I, like about 25% of Americans, am allergic to MSG. Not fatally so, but I do get awful migraines and upset stomach when I eat foods containing MSG.
"No big deal," you would think to yourself, "just eliminate foods containing MSG from your diet." Sounds easy enough, but is it?
I have spent a lot of time trying to make sure I know what foods do and do not contain MSG (or the fully spelled out monosodium glutamate) in the ingredients. Sure I had succeeded, I was largely eating homemade snacks for some time. Recently, though, I went away on a business trip that took up all of my weekend, too. Without my usual food prep time, I resorted to pre-packaged snacks. I got some peanut butter crackers, read the ingredients, and was satisfied that the ingredients did not contain MSG. 20 minutes or so after eating them, I had a splitting headache; complete with nausea and a migraine aura. That day I had good timing on my side, on my lunch break I read an article about MSG that came straight to my email inbox. I was appalled to learn that MSG actually goes by other names!
Maltodextrin, Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, Autolyzed yeast extract, "natural flavoring;" all of these are FDA approved names for MSG, and there are actually as many of 40 others! How can any allergy sufferers be expected to keep a list this long and all of the places they usually show up memorized?? But there have been no laws requiring that MSG be clearly marked as an allergen.
That prompts me to ask, "why?" Why is it that when otherwise innocuous substances like milk, nuts, soy, and wheat are clearly marked as allergens for the occasional allergy sufferer; a substance that 25% of Americans are allergic to is allowed to go by nicknames and assumed identities? What kind of logic is that, and who is making sure it stays that way?
Not only is MSG is an allergen, it has also been linked to obesity, diabetes, autism, ADHD, and a host of other conditions. So why is it everywhere?
We need to act NOW! We need to write our congressmen and women to give their full support to legislation promoting the marking of MSG as an allergen in whatever form it appears.
PLEASE WRITE YOUR CONGRESSMEN AND WOMEN. PLEASE REPOST THIS WHEREVER YOU SEE FIT.
Aren't you also sick and tired of having to do research just to be able to eat a package of peanut butter crackers? Tired of the fact that government FOR the people is not doing its part to protect our personal health? Tired of the fact that addictive and toxic additives can be added to our food with no warning? PLEASE WRITE!
This is the letter I'm writing:
I am writing you today on an issue that is very important not to my own health, but to the health of many: The listing of monosodium glutamate as an allergen in food products.
I have been exhibiting allergic reactions to MSG for the last eight years or so. I thought I had finally rid my pantry of all things containing MSG, but I was still experiencing the same migraine headaches and nausea. Further research on my part revealed that monosodium glutamate does not need to be named where it is part of another food additive. Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, autolyzed yeast extract, malotdextrin, and “natural flavor” are all indicators that MSG may or may not be present. Upon further review of the processed foods we keep around the house, I’ve learned that one or more of these names were present in almost all of the ingredient lists.
My husband and I do a lot to preserve our physical health. We make a lot of our foods from scratch with healthy, natural ingredients, we eat fresh vegetables, and when we do snack, we try to eat healthy alternatives to the average available snack food. We are not the type to leave our health up to chance, yet in the case of my allergy to MSG, I am being forced to.
It is incredibly frustrating to me that even in the midst of all of our efforts to take care of our bodies, I cannot get away from a substance that is making me sick. Migraines, nausea, general upset stomach; whenever these are present I can find some ingredient in some food that contained MSG. Church potlucks, eating over at friends’ houses, eating out at restaurants; it seems like nothing is safe, because MSG in some form is present in nearly all processed foods.
Common and (except in the case of allergies) non-toxic foods are listed as allergens on products every day. Milk, soy, peanuts, tree nuts; all of these are allowed allergen status and clearly labeled on foods. I do not understand why only people who suffer from allergies to MSG have to play the food lottery wherever they go. Milk being labeled as an allergen does not make milk-lovers desire not to drink milk. People who love peanut butter are not discouraged from purchasing it because some people are allergic. I do not think it would be harmful to the food additive manufacturers to admit that some people are severely allergic. I know of others in my community whose reactions are much worse than mine. We have to keep running lists of what snack foods are msg free (very few, for the record), what restaurants we can and cannot go to, and the list keeps changing. It is not fair that health-conscious people should be wary of allergic reactions at every turn, and we are not even getting any help from the FDA like other allergy sufferers do.
We need legislation. People who are allergic to MSG need help from those who are serving our country to make our voices heard. Please help and do what you can to promote food labeling legislation that would mark MSG clearly as an allergen in all foods where it is present.
Thank you for your time.