Canned vegetables, soups and processed meats commonly contain monosodium glutamate to enhance their flavor. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration classifies MSG as generally safe although people sensitive to MSG may suffer from adverse reactions, such as headache and heart palpitations. Since avoidance of these ingredients is the only way to ensure against the symptoms it provokes, it is important to recognize other names for MSG.
The trade name of monosodium glutamate, according to California State University at Dominguez Hills, is sodium hydrogen glutamate. Because MSG is the sodium salt of the amino acid glutamic acid, whenever glutamic acid is listed on a food label, the food always contains MSG, according to Vanderbilt University. MSG may also be listed as monopotassium glutamate or simply as glutamate.
Food that lists the ingredient yeast extract always contains MSG. Although MSG may also be labeled autolyzed yeast, yeast food or yeast nutrient, the common name including the word yeast currently used in processed foods to avoid listing the ingredient as monosodium glutamate is yeast extract. Avoid foods with yeast extract if you have adverse reactions to MSG, even though you find the enhanced flavor highly appealing.
Other Hidden Sources
Hydrolyzed protein is a common term used for MSG, whether it is hydrolyzed vegetable protein, animal protein or plant protein, according to the department of nutrition and exercise science at Bastyr University. Vanderbilt University adds that any food ingredient listed as hydrolyzed, protein-fortified, ultra-pasteurized, fermented or enzyme-modified is often MSG, or creates free glutamic acid during processing. These other names include soy protein isolate, soy protein concentrate, whey protein, whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, autolyzed plant protein, hydrolyzed oat flour and textured protein. With so many names for MSG, if you are sensitive or allergic to MSG, make a list of these alternative names and consult it when you go shopping.
MSG can cause discomfort in those sensitive to it, including numbness or pressure in the face, heart palpitations, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, headache, sweating, wheezing or burning sensations in various parts of the body. If you suspect you are allergic to MSG, survey the ingredient labels on the food you buy. MSG can hide under the names sodium caseinate or calcium caseinate and even under natural-sounding names, such as bouillon, broth stock or malt extract.
Besides yeast extract, a common name for MSG is "natural flavors." Variations are natural flavor, natural flavorings, natural beef flavor, natural chicken flavor, malt flavoring, chicken flavoring, seasoning, spices, enzymes and simply "flavoring." Be wary of these on ingredient labels if you suspect your headaches or burning sensations in your neck or arms come from your food.