Monosodium glutamate, better known as MSG, is a fermented flavor enhancer. Food producers label MSG under several names, including yeast extract, hydrolyzed protein, glutamic acid and sodium or calcium caseinate, according to the Health Psychology Department at Vanderbilt University. This can be confusing for people trying to avoid foods containing MSG, making it important to be aware of products that usually contain this seasoning.
MSG is frequently found in packaged foods. Pre-made salad dressings and gravies can be expected to contain MSG unless clearly labeled otherwise. Certain brands of chips and chip dips, including Doritos, commonly list more than one ingredient that contains MSG. Most pre-made soups, broths and stocks contain MSG. Frozen meals, frozen pizza, ramen, instant noodles and even some processed cheeses may include the flavor enhancer.
Although MSG is considered a seasoning itself, manufacturers commonly add it to other products that are also used for seasoning. Many spice blends will include MSG in their mix. Soy sauce will always contain a naturally occurring form of MSG. Companies producing sandwich dressings such as ketchup and mayonnaise tend to include MSG in their recipes.
Some soft drinks, iced tea mix, concentrates and sports drinks contain MSG. Children’s snacks are also common culprits of added MSG. Some granola bars, fruit snacks and candy, gum and some candy bars will contain it. Even snacks most people consider healthy, such as yogurt and cottage cheese, may include the flavor enhancer.
Lunchmeats and frozen hamburgers are rarely free of MSG. The additive is also usually found in bacon, ham, canned tuna fish and salmon. Fast food restaurants typically include MSG in their products, especially those containing beef. Chain sit-down restaurants such as Chili’s, Denny’s and Applebee’s also use an ample amount of MSG in most of their meat products. Freshly cut meat and seafood is free of MSG.
References and ResourcesVanderbilt University: Monosodium Glutamate
ACS Publications: Monosodium Glutamate