Monosodium glutamate or MSG

Learn more about MSG, how it's used, and how to avoid it if you're sensitive.

Why MSG is used in food

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is used to bring out the savoury taste in food. It’s a fine white powder that looks like salt or sugar. It has no flavour, but stimulates the taste buds and brings out savoury flavours.

Foods that contain MSG

Examples of some foods that may use MSG are:

  • stir fried vegetables
  • sauces, especially soy sauce
  • canned vegetables
  • meaty soups
  • processed meats.

MSG is also found naturally in a lot of foods. Examples are:

  • meat
  • milk
  • tomatoes
  • mushrooms.

Is MSG safe?

MSG is harmless to most people even when eaten in large quantities. Most servings are around half a gram. A large serving could be as much as 3 grams.

A small number of people may have a sensitivity to MSG. These people may react to eating MSG. People with severe or poorly controlled asthma may also be susceptible. Symptoms of sensitivity can include:

  • headaches
  • flushed or burning feelings around the neck and chest
  • nausea
  • rapid heartbeat
  • difficulty breathing.

If MSG has been added to food, it must be listed on the food label. For example, "flavour enhancer (621)".

If eating in a restaurant, people with sensitivity will need to check with the chef if MSG has been used.

How MSG is regulated in New Zealand

All food additives, including MSG, must be assessed for safety by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).

MSG in food – Food Standards Australia New Zealand

Science and research on MSG

MSG has been studied by several organisations. No health concerns have been found for the general population.

Research shows that MSG can be used safely, and there's no need for a maximum limit.

Who to contact

If you have questions about MSG, email info@mpi.govt.nz

Last reviewed: