What is Monosodium Glutamate (E621) in Food? Uses, Safe, Side Effects

What is Monosodium Glutamate (E621) in Food? Uses, Safe, Side Effects


Table of Contents

Monosodium glutamate (monosodium L-glutamate or monosodium glutamate) is found naturally in tomatoes, cheese, mushrooms, and other foods. Monosodium glutamate is about 78 percent monosodium and 21 percent glutamate. The addition of it to food is through food processing. It is approved for use as a flavoring by the FDA and is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). It was discovered by Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda who isolated it from seaweed in 1908. It wasn’t until the 1950s that it started being widely used as a flavor enhancer through food manufacturing.

What is monosodium glutamate?

Monosodium glutamate definition

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, one of the most abundant naturally occurring non-essential amino acids. Glutamic acid is commonly found in tomatoes and other foods, where it contributes to their savory taste. Glutamate is an important neurotransmitter in the brain.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified MSG as “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). The European Union classifies it as a food additive permitted in certain foods and subject to quantitative limitations.

MSG has the HS code 29224220 and ADR/RID code 3A2D.

Monosodium glutamate common name

Monosodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer found in many processed foods. It’s also known as MSG, E621 and 621.

Monosodium glutamate formula

The chemical formula of monosodium glutamate is C5H8NaNO4 · H2O.

What is monosodium glutamate used for in food?

Monosodium glutamate uses in many food.

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer that has been used for decades. A lot of people have heard about MSG and think of it as an unhealthy additive, but this isn’t true.

MSG is naturally occurring in many foods including mushrooms, tomatoes and cheese. It is also found in some vegetables like soybeans and wheat.

The FDA considers MSG to be safe for consumption by healthy individuals at any age. However, people with severe food allergies may need to avoid it completely.

Monosodium glutamate foods

MSG is often added to foods to enhance the flavor and make them taste more savory. It can be used in canned soups and canned vegetables to give them a more natural taste than they would otherwise have when they are cooked on their own. It has also been used to enhance the flavor of frozen dinners since they don’t contain much actual meat or other ingredients that add their own flavors to the dish. If you want to make your own frozen meals at home, adding a small amount of MSG can improve the overall taste while keeping costs down because you won’t have to buy all of those expensive ingredients separately just so that your food will taste better

Application Uses Level
Meat products ≥ 0.3%
Broths 15 – 25%
Soups 6 – 8%
Seasonings: up to 10% salt 50 – 70%
Seasonings: high salt content 8 – 10%
Seasonings: for instant noodles (Lamen) 10 – 17%
Snacks 0.6 – 0.75%
Tomato sauce 0.6 – 1.0%
Mustard 0.6 – 1.0%
Salad dressings 0.4 – 0.6%
Vegetable preserves 0.2 – 0.3%
Fish byproducts ≥ 0.3%
Frozen food
Pasta / dough

What is monosodium glutamate made from?

Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is a food additive that’s used to enhance the flavor of foods. It’s also known as glutamate or glutamic acid.

MSG is made by fermenting starch, sugar beets or molasses with a bacterium called “Amino Acids” and then isolating the amino acids from the solution. The amino acids are then processed into MSG to create a white crystalline powder that’s about 80% protein by weight.

How is monosodium glutamate made?

During production, it undergoes a natural fermentation process, followed by neutralization and crystallization.

These four authority resources mention the manufacturing process, respectively from Wikipedia, EFSA, a Chinese big manufacturer, and Ajinomoto.

Let’s look at them one by one.

1. Wikipedia

The majority of MSG is produced industrially by fermenting starches and sugars, such as corn starch and tapioca starch. Instead of being extracted and crystallized from seaweed, this was done by Japanese scientists in 1908.


For the fermentation of L-glutamic acid, there are two bacteria approved; one is Corynebacterium glutamicum strain 2256 and another is a genetically modified strain of C. glutamicum (the strain EA-12).

In both processes, glutamic acid is produced via fed-batch fermentation utilizing carbon sources from vegetal origin (sucrose), nitrogen sources, salts, vitamins.

3. A China Big Manufacturer

Using corynebacterium glutamicum to produce glutamic acid from glucose fermentation, and then neutralizing it with sodium carbonate. In the following steps, decolorization, filtration, crystallization, centrifugation, and drying are carried out.

4. Ajinomoto

AJINOmoto says their brand MSG AJI-NO-MOTO® is manufactured in Brazil from sugarcane molasses fermentation and has provided a flow chart for this process.





Image Source

Other names
  • Monosodium L-glutamate
  • L-glutamic acid, sodium salt
Appearance A white, practically odorless crystalline granular or powder.
CAS number 6106-04-03 (monohydrate)
Chemical formula C5H8NaNO4.H2O
Molecular weight 187.13
Melting Point 232 °C (450 °F; 505 K)
  • Freely soluble in water with the solubility 740 g/L in water. It dissociates into glutamate and sodium ions.
  • Practically insoluble in ethanol or ether.
Stability Stable in high temperatures and in the presence of light. Around 0.6% of MSG will decompose when heated its 10% solution in 100ºC for 3 hours in PH 6.9. It will lose the combined crystallization water when heated to 120ºC.


Is only chinese food with monosodium glutamate?

There are many people who believe that the only Chinese food that contains MSG is Chinese takeout. This is not true.

Most people don’t realize that MSG is a natural component of many foods, and it’s added to others. It’s even found in some foods that you’d never think would contain it.

Monosodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer that is used in many different types of cuisines around the world. It’s found naturally in tomatoes, cheeses and meats. But it can also be added to other foods for flavor enhancement purposes as well.

MSG is also known as:

  • Ajinomoto (the scientific name)
  • MSG (the common name)

Is monosodium glutamate safe to eat?

Ingredients approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) and EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) as acceptable food additives are safe for human consumption.


A FDA review found that MSG additions to foods are “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). FDA classified it as one of “Special Dietary and Nutritional Additives” along with amino acids and claimed that it is a direct food additive and may be used in foods as nutrients.


A food additive called monosodium glutamate (E621) is regulated in the European Union (EU) under Annex II of Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 as a “food additive other than colors and sweeteners.”

Re-evaluation In 2017


The studies on genotoxicity, carcinogenicity, neurotoxicity, and reproductive and developmental toxicity did not demonstrate adverse effects.


The EFSA published a group acceptable daily intake (ADI) estimate of glutamic acid at 30 mg/kg body weight per day in June 2017.

Side Effects

In addition, the EFSA identified the ADI related to the MSG symptom complex (> 42.9 mg/kg), headache (85.8 mg/kg), blood pressure increase (150 mg/kg), and insulin increase (> 143 mg/kg).

Call for Technical Data

As of April, 2019, EFSA is requesting technical data for re-evaluating MSG and other glutamates.

Includes the following:

  • Uses level
  • Function and technological requirements
  • Natural levels of free glutamic acid-glutamate in foods
  • Food ingredients rich in free glutamic acid & glutamate
  • Lowest achievable limits for the impurities of toxic elements

Approved Uses

The company’s approved applications are listed in Group I in 67 food categories with a maximum level of 10 grams per kilogram, expressed as glutamic acid.

The following foods may contain it:

  • Dairy products and analogues
  • Fats and oils and fat and oil emulsions
  • Edible ices
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Confectionery
  • Cereals and cereal products
  • Bakery wares
  • Meat
  • Fish and fisheries products
  • Eggs and egg products
  • Sugars, syrups, honey and table-top sweeteners
  • Salts, spices, soups, sauces, salads and protein products
  • Foods intended for particular nutritional uses as defined by Directive 2009/39/EC
  • Beverages

UK Food Standards Agency

Listed in other categories.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand

It is approved as an ingredient in Australia and New Zealand under code number 621.


Functional class: Food additives: flavor enhancer

ADI: MSG as a food additive is not limited, and the Acceptable Daily Intake is set at “not specified” since 1987.

What are the benefits of monosodium glutamate in food?

1. Taste enhancement

The first and most obvious benefit of monosodium glutamate is taste enhancement. Monosodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer that makes food taste better by enhancing the flavors already present in the food. This can be done by adding extra flavor to bland foods or by making strong flavors more palatable for people who cannot eat large amounts of spice or other strong flavors due to allergies or intolerances.

2. Helps low salt diets

Monosodium glutamate can also be used on low sodium diets as well as high sodium diets because it does not contain any sodium at all. Many people are trying to reduce their sodium intake due to health concerns such as high blood pressure and heart disease, so choosing foods with no added salt can be difficult without monosodium glutamate as an option for flavor enhancement.

3. Reduces hunger pangs

Monosodium glutamate has been shown to reduce hunger pangs in people who are overweight or obese as well as those who are trying to lose weight through dieting or exercise programs. This means that if you eat something with MSG in it before bedtime, you will experience less hunger during the night which means fewer cravings for unhealthy snacks late at night!

What are the possible side effects of monosodium glutamate?

Mononosodium Glutamate (MSG) is a well-known and controversial ingredient. It is not uncommon for consumers to wonder whether MSG is bad for their health and what the side effects are. Though the FDA and EFSA have approved its safety for years, it frequently receives public safety attention.

Why is monosodium glutamate controversial?

The usage of this drug remains controversial for some people since it poses a lot of health risks for those who are intolerant to it. There are several common risks, including headaches, brain damage, neurotoxins, high blood pressure, Chinese Restaurant Syndrome, etc.

Some consumers avoid MSG in favor of its replacement because they believe it has ill effects on health. It is understandable that consumers are concerned about the ingredients in their food.

Let’s begin with the metabolism, then move on to its possible side effects.

What are monosodium glutamate allergies?

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a common ingredient in many foods, including salad dressing and canned vegetables. Some people experience adverse reactions to MSG, including headaches, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and tightness, flushing, heart palpitations and numbness. The symptoms usually occur within minutes of eating the food containing MSG.

MSG Allergy Symptoms

Adverse reactions to monosodium glutamate can be mild or severe. Some people may experience no symptoms at all.

Symptoms of an monosodium glutamate allergy include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Flushing of the skin
  • Itching of the skin    Hives or rashes
  • Heart palpitations or heartburn    Numbness or tingling sensations

What are the effects of monosodium glutamate on brain?

The effect of monosodium glutamate on the brain is to cause an increase in dopamine release.

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine published a study in 2018 that found MSG does not increase brain glutamate levels.

Does monosodium glutamate cause cancer?

Monosodium glutamate cancer

There is no evidence that Monosodium glutamate (MSG) causes cancer or any other disease.

Does monosodium glutamate raise blood pressure?

The Jiangsu Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2011 that MSG intake was associated with a significant increase in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, particularly among women.

Another study released in 2015 by The University of British Columbia found that repetitive oral administration of monosodium glutamate caused nausea and headaches as well as high blood pressure.

Does monosodium glutamate lead to obesity?

In 2011, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study that found MSG consumption was strongly associated with overweight development in healthy Chinese adults.

A study conducted by the Jiangsu Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention on 1282 Chinese men and women over five years showed that MSG did not contribute to obesity.

Similar to this study, another study published in Nutrition & Metabolism in 2012 showed a connection between MSG intake and obesity and metabolic syndrome in Thais.

In contrast, a study published in Public Health Nutrition found the opposite in Vietnamese adults.

Does monosodium glutamate cause asthma?

In an early study published in 1987, 13 of 32 asthmatics (with 0.5 gm to 5.0 gm MSG daily) developed asthma within 12 hours of consuming higher doses of MSG.

Nevertheless, a 2012 study using MSG dosages of 1 g, 5 g, and 25 mg/kg in 24 adults concluded that there is no evidence to support the avoidance of MSG in adults with chronic asthma, but the study also acknowledged that the data were limited.

Does monosodium glutamate damage liver?

The results of a 2011 study on rats showed that MSG caused a dilatation of the central vein and caused liver damage.

May damage kidney

In 2015, researchers published a study that suggested MSG may be harmful to the kidneys.

May cause type 2 diabetes

According to a 2019 study, MSG causes type 2 diabetes in animals.

Is monosodium glutamate bad for you?

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer that has been used in food and beverages for many years. Although it has been shown to be safe when consumed at normal concentrations, some people claim that MSG is linked to headaches, allergic reactions and other problems.

MSG is considered safe by experts at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA first approved MSG for use as a food additive in 1908 and currently considers it safe when used at levels consistent with good manufacturing practices.

Some people have blamed MSG for various health problems such as headaches and asthma attacks. However, most studies have failed to find any link between MSG consumption and these symptoms.

Where to buy monosodium glutamate?

If you want to buy MSG, there are several places where you can do so. These include:

The grocery store – Look for packets of MSG or monosodium glutamate powder at the grocery store. Many stores stock this item in their “Asian” section because it is most commonly used in Asian cooking. Some brands that are available include Ajinomoto and Lee Kum Kee brand.

Online – If you don’t have access to a local store, then you can buy your monosodium glutamate online from Amazon or another retailer that sells food products online. Look for an online retailer that has good customer service ratings so that if something goes wrong with your order, there’s someone to help you out with it.

Frequently asked questions

Is monosodium glutamate natural?

Yes, Monosodium glutamate, often abbreviated to MSG, is a naturally occurring amino acid that is used as a flavor enhancer. It is found in some foods, but it can also be manufactured and added to foods during preparation.

Is monosodium glutamate vegan?

Yes, monosodium glutamate is vegan.

This flavor enhancer is made from natural ingredients and does not contain any animal products.

Is monosodium glutamate halal?

Yes, monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a naturally-occurring amino acid that’s used as a flavor enhancer in many foods. It has been used for decades to add flavor to foods and beverages, and it’s also found in many Asian cuisines. In fact, it’s one of the main ingredients in traditional Chinese cooking and Japanese sushi.

Is monosodium glutamate kosher?

The answer is yes, monosodium glutamate (MSG) is kosher.

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is not considered pareve under Orthodox guidelines because it has been derived from protein, so it cannot be eaten with milk products. However, when MSG is used in processed foods or as an ingredient in other ingredients (e.g., seasoning mixes), it does not need to be labeled “kosher” because the manufacturer has already gone through the kosher certification process for its entire product line.

Is monosodium glutamate gluten free?

Yes, monosodium glutamate is gluten free. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other grains, which can cause an immune response in people with celiac disease or an allergy to gluten. Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is a food additive used to enhance flavor and preserve freshness in foods. It is made from natural amino acids—the building blocks of protein—and has been used as a flavor enhancer for thousands of years.

Is MSG bad for you?

Yes, MSG is not bad for you. It is a flavor enhancer, and has been used by cooks for centuries to make dishes taste better.

MSG is used in many foods we eat every day, such as pizza and salad dressing. The FDA has ruled that MSG is safe to consume in small amounts.

Is monosodium glutamate toxic?

The answer is no—at least according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA has classified monosodium glutamate as “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) for use in food. In fact, the FDA has even approved its use in baby food!

Is monosodium glutamate safe for pregnant and breastfeeding?

In general, it is safe, but you should consult your doctor before taking it.

According to a 2018 study on rats, MSG suppresses female reproductive function by impairing ovary and uterine functions.

What is the taste of monosodium glutamate?

Monosodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer that has been used to add umami flavor to foods for centuries. It has a savory taste that is similar to umami, as well as some salty and sweet notes.

When you taste monosodium glutamate, you’ll experience a savory flavor that can be described as meaty and salty. There’s also a hint of sweetness that adds balance to the overall taste profile.

Which foods high in monosodium glutamate?

Monosodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer commonly used in Asian cooking. It’s also found in some processed foods.

Foods high in monosodium glutamate include: Soy sauce, butter flavoring, beverages like soda, beer and wine, processed meat products such as hot dogs and sausage.

What’s the monosodium glutamate substitute?

There are some replacements like I+G (a mixture of disodium guanylate and disodium inosinate) and hydrolyzed vegetable protein available.

Is yeast extract the same as monosodium glutamate?

No, yeast extract is not the same as monosodium glutamate. Yeast extract is made from yeast and it is a brown, salty liquid that is used as a flavor enhancer in many foods. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a white crystalline powder that can be found in many Asian foods and has been used for over 100 years. It is made by hydrolyzing glutamic acid, which is an amino acid found in protein.


For the moment, the most commonly accepted monosodium glutamate side effects are little brain seizures, which can effect a person’s mood and personality. Apart from that, it can also fight glaucoma, prevent Alzheimer’s, and cure Diabetes Type II. However, my suggestion is to continue reading this article until the end. This is because there are some facts about MSG that you may not know yet, but which you need to know when using it in food. Not only will these facts save you time and money, but they may even save your life!

Sophie Feng

Sophie Feng

Sophie Feng is the author of gradechemical.com, she is the co-founder of the grade chemical network. She has been in grade chemical company since 2017, with a working knowledge of food chemical .

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