We live in an odd time. Access to information has never been more readily available, though lack of understanding can cause big problems. That is extremely evident in the field of food sciences, where processed foods, food labeling, and scientific illiteracy have collided into an ongoing Hindenburg-like catastrophe.
People have a right to know what they are eating, which is why it is mandated that packaged food must contain a list of ingredients. This basically equates to a list of chemicals, because everything is made out of chemicals. Without a sound understanding of chemistry, some of these can seem scarier than they are. Knee-jerk reactions based on fear incites mob mentality around ignorant bloggers like Food Babe (who has been described as the Jenny McCarthy of food), who turn around and bully companies into removing certain ingredients, despite the fact that there is generally no evidence to suggest that the ingredients are harmful.
One ingredient that has gotten a bad reputation for decades is monosodium glutamate, better known as MSG. L-glutamate is an amino acid found in meat, dairy, and produce, that was very slightly modified in order to make it into a convenient powder. The body metabolizes naturally-occurring glutamate the same way it does MSG.
The FDA categorizes MSG as “generally recognized as safe.” Some people claim to be “allergic” and have bad reactions to MSG, but there haven’t been any studies that definitively show MSG as the cause of those symptoms under regular conditions. MSG is perfectly safe for most people in moderation, and its use to add flavor to food shouldn’t raise any more eyebrows than those who use salt, pepper, or Sriracha.
Check out this video by Reactions that squashes some myths surrounding MSG: