‘Harmful effects of MSG not clinically established’

Kolkata: A section of Indian dietitians and nutritionists maintain that there was no scientific evidence to establish adverse health effects of monosodium glutamate (MSG) in the wake of some Maggi noodles samples reportedly found to contain higher-than-permissible levels.

Experts dismissed the concerns as “unfounded” since MSG, they said, is one of the most abundant and naturally-occurring amino acids that are added to foods as a flavor enhancer

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“Recent reports of MSG having adverse effects such as headache, flushing and excessive sweating — which are typically associated with Chinese Restaurant Syndrome (CRS) — have not been clinically established,” said prominent nutritionist Hena Nafis.

She said it is more of a personal choice for consumers.

“One is advised to avoid packaged food if its intake induces similar symptoms. Consumption of MSG is not harmful as long as it is used in moderation. It does not have a detrimental effect on health as long as a person does not have any food allergies to it,” Nafis said.

In addition, she pointed out that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers the addition of MSG to foods to be ‘generally recognized as safe’ (GRAS).

According to Dharini Krishnan, president of the Indian Dietetic Association, based in Chennai, in addition to packaged foods, people have been consuming MSG in its natural form as well.

“It is found in tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, mushrooms and many other vegetables and fruits. MSG is generally a flavour enhancer, and is either found in natural sources or added artificially,” Krishnan said.

The government on Monday said the industry watchdog Food Safety Standards Authority of India had taken more samples of Maggi across India for testing after certain harmful substances were allegedly found in a batch in quantities higher-than-permissible-limits.

“We understand that consumers are concerned by reports that the authorities in Uttar Pradesh have found elevated levels of lead in a sample pack of Maggi noodles,” its manufacturer, Nestle, had said in a statement, reacting to the developments.

“We are fully cooperating with the authorities who are conducting further tests and we are awaiting their results.”