Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) alias “KA-FI-ZABO” in Hausa (literally meaning “Tastier than Guinea-Fowl”) has a long History of use in foods as a flavour-enhancer. Foods and ingredients high in free amino acids or made up of protein hydrolysates have been used in cooking for many centuries in order to enhance the sensory qualities of various foods. UMAMI (meaning ‘savoury’ or ‘tasty’ in Japanese) is the taste attributed to monosodium glutamate. The taste helps improve flavour in foods by giving “meaty and savoury” flavours. Ever since its invention in 1909, MSG has become the most widely consumed as well as controversial flavour enhancer in the world.
In 1968, a letter appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine describing a “syndrome” which began 15 to 30 min after eating in certain Chinese restaurants and lasted about 2 hours with no residual effects. The syndrome was called “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome (CRS) “and numerous reports, most of them anecdotal were published after the original observation. Since then clinical studies on these acute, temporary and “self-limited” adverse reactions and many other clinical disorders have been performed by numerous groups, with varying degrees of vigour in experiemental design and outcome. MSG is now recognized as the most closely studied flavour-enhancer, largely due to the high volume of conflicting reports about its safety versus the “safety label” it has earned from the regulatory authorities. This book which is the second edition provides a comprehensive review of the studies, discussions and conclusions of those studies. The safety of MSG consumption; with particular emphasis to the Nigerian situation is also covered. It will be a very important – resource material for students of Biochemistry, Clinicians, Nutrition, Food science, Industrial chemistry Physiology, Biological sciences and Agriculture interested in the role of flavour – enhancers to the Food chain and Public Health. Whilst the first edition was largely targeted to non-technical readers, this edition attempts to meet the needs of both technical and non-technical readers, hence a new publisher for this edition. Accordingly, all the five chapters were reviewed to meet this objective.
Chapter one covers the historical background to the emergence of MSG as a food additive and a new section on the societal responsibilities of food scientist. Chapter two gave a detailed description of what is monosodium glutamate covering chemical description, food source, production, commercialization, the “Umami” taste, metabolism, nutrition and other properties. Chapter three describe sequentially the journey that took MSG to the “safe net” of regulatory authorities. Chapter four dealt comprehensively with the evidences that associate MSG with many clinical disorders of Public Health concern. Finally, chapter five discusses the relationship between MSG consumption and the Nutritional Status of Nigerians and concludes with recommendations that need the attention of Nigerian Health authorities.