Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer often added to restaurant foods, canned vegetables, soups, deli meats and other foods. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified MSG as a food ingredient that's generally recognized as safe. But its use is still debated. For this reason, when MSG is added to food, the FDA requires it to be listed on the label.
MSG has been used as a food additive for many years. During this time, the FDA has received many reports of concerning reactions that people have attributed to foods that had MSG in them. These reactions — called MSG symptom complex — include:
- Face pressure or tightness
- Lack of feeling (numbness), tingling or burning in the face, neck and other areas
- Quick, fluttering heartbeats
- Chest pain
- Feeling sick (nausea)
But researchers have found no clear proof of a link between MSG and these symptoms. Researchers admit, though, that a small number of people may have short-term reactions to MSG. Symptoms are often mild and don't need to be treated. The only way to prevent a reaction is to not eat foods that have MSG in them.
April 20, 2022
From Mayo Clinic to your inbox
Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.
ErrorEmail field is required
ErrorInclude a valid email address
To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which
information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with
other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could
include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected
health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health
information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of
privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on
the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.
Thank you for subscribing!
You'll soon start receiving the latest Mayo Clinic health information you requested in your inbox.
Sorry something went wrong with your subscription
Please, try again in a couple of minutes
See more Expert Answers
- Questions and answers on monosodium glutamate (MSG). U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/food/ingredientspackaginglabeling/foodadditivesingredients/ucm328728.htm. Accessed March 25, 2022.
- AskMayoExpert. Ophthalmic migraine (typical aura without migraine). Mayo Clinic; 2021.
- Simon RA. Allergies and asthmatic medications to food additives. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed March 25, 2022.
- Ferri F. Food and drug additive reactions. Clinical overview. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 25, 2022.
- Wahlstedt A, et al. MSG is A-OK: Exploring the xenophobic history of and best practices for consuming monosodium glutamate. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 25, 2022.